The Bureau of Prisons will release 6,000 nonviolent drug convicts at the end of the month, the Washington Post reports. It’s the first of a series of mass releases resulting from policy changes set into motion by former attorney general Eric Holder, part of an effort by the Justice Department and U.S. Sentencing Commission aimed at reducing overcrowding in federal prisons as well as reconfiguring sentencing guidelines for drug-related crimes.
The program, known as Drugs Minus Two, was first approved by the independent U.S. Sentencing Commission last summer. The commission sets federal sentencing guidelines. The new policies reduce the sentencing severity of trafficking-related charges no matter the drug type. A primary thrust of the effort was to remove mandatory minimums for drug offenses. Holder endorsed the new guidelines last summer.
These changes affect not only people who have not yet been convicted, but allow for a revisiting of the sentences of those currently imprisoned. Federal judges must approve each petition for reduction and release. On average, drug offenders should expect a 25-month reduction in their sentences.
The Justice Department has spent the last year reviewing eligible cases and preparing for the first mass releases.
The Bureau of Prisons estimates that it is 23 percent over capacity.
The commission estimates that about 46,000, out of 100,000, convicted drug offenders will be set free under the new policy.
On the weekend of October 30 to November 2, a majority of the released inmates will report to halfway houses and supervised home confinement across the country.
More than 8,000 additional inmates will be released sometime between November 1 of this year and November 2016.