6,000 Federal Prisoners Being Released Early
Towards the end of this month, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is breaking its record for the largest number of prisoners released in one day by setting free nearly 6,000 federal prisoners serving time for drug offenses. The purpose of this early release is to combat the prison overcrowding issue and to provide relief to drug offenders who have been punished too harshly since the War on Drugs started over 30 years ago. Roughly two-third of the inmates will be placed in a halfway house or on home confinement. The remaining inmates are foreign citizens who will be immediately deported.
The DOJ's decision follows a change in the prison sentencing guidelines which reduced the minimum prison sentences for drug offenses by one to two years. Prior to this change, defendants convicted of possession of 10 grams of certain drugs with one prior felony drug offense faced a minimum of 20 years in federal prison. Such a punishment is overly harsh - especially when there are many violent offenders who do not serve sentences half as long as that.
Releasing these inmates early under the new guidelines will also free up a significant amount of taxpayers' money. According to the Bureau of Prisons, the average daily cost to house an inmate in federal prison is $79.31. This means that the American people are spending over $475,000 every day to house the nearly 6,000 inmates at issue. Perhaps the money saved on these particular inmates can be spent on something better - like education.
Under the new guidelines, nearly 46,000 federal inmates may be eligible for early release. This amounts to nearly half of the total number of inmates serving federal time for drug offenses. The 6,000 being released in the coming weeks are simply the first wave.