The U.S. Department of Justice is preparing to release from federal prisons up to 6,000 people whose nonviolent drug sentences were recently reduced, as part of what advocates say is the country’s ongoing march towards justice within its “failed” War on Drugs.
According to the Washington Post, which broke the news on Tuesday afternoon, the event marks the largest ever one-time release from the federal prison system.
“The inmates from federal prisons nationwide will be set free by the department’s Bureau of Prisons between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2,” the Post reported. “Most of them will go to halfway houses and home confinement before being put on supervised release.”
The move follows a decision last year by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, a body within the judicial branch that sets federal sentencing policies, to apply new sentencing guidelines to people who are currently serving time for select nonviolent drug offenses.
Eligible sentences are seeing an average reduction of two years, according to one Justice Department official, who also noted that in many cases the inmates who will be released “have served decades.”
“Even with the Sentencing Commission’s reductions, drug offenders will have served substantial prison sentences,” Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said Tuesday.
Anthony Papa, manager of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance, who spent 12 years behind bars on a mandatory minimum drug sentence, said that it warms his heart to hear that 6,000 people will be coming home. He added that “the drug war has devastated families and communities and it is time for the healing to begin.”
In a statement, Jesselyn McCurdy, senior legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, agreed that “far too many people have lost years of their lives to draconian sentencing laws born of the failed drug war,” adding that the organization is “overjoyed that some of the people so wronged will get their freedom back.”
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