Thousands of federal drug inmates set for early release

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6,000 Federal Prisoners to Be Released in the U.S.


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Thousands of federal inmates serving sentences for drug crimes are set for early release next month under a cost-cutting measure intended to reduce the nation's prison population.

The more than 5,500 inmates set to go free in November are among the first of what could eventually be tens of thousands eligible for release. The U.S. Sentencing Commission voted last year to retroactively apply substantially lower recommended sentences for those convicted of drug-related felonies.

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The commission, an independent panel that sets federal sentencing policy, estimated the prison terms would be cut by an average of 25 months.

Under the program, a judge reviews each prisoner's case to decide if his or her release would jeopardize public safety. Most of those eligible for consideration have already served 10 years or more.

The Justice Department estimates that roughly 40,000 prisoners could benefit from the program in the coming years.

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Reactions to Obama communting Prison sentences
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Thousands of federal drug inmates set for early release
Obama commutes sentences to 46 prisoners convicted for nonviolent offences: http://t.co/95EBB9WnAt http://t.co/VMeM8ttFd5
Wonderful..Just what we need: lighter sentences! CNN: President Barack Obama commutes sentences of 46 drug offenders http://t.co/T07nb9dlIa
President Obama commutes the excessive sentences of 46 nonviolent drug offenders. #POTUS once again proving he's no lame duck! Continuing his recent trend of leaning just a bit left of his moderate philosophy. I'd like to think he's purposely positioning himself to emerge from the Oval Office as an influential leader for social justice and community activism. #90Commutations #46PresidentialPardons #CriminalJusticeReform #DisproportionateSentences
@POTUS is moving forward on #CriminalJustice reforms http://t.co/1lVvNRYHqU #Equality
Obama commutes sentences of more prisoners than past four presidents combined http://t.co/EH7zkV4APC
Obama commutes sentences for 46 drug offenders. The other 337,000 jailed drug offenders will receive commemorative Obama bobblehead dolls.
“We made a terrible mistake 30 yrs ago when we created the laws that sent these men and women away for so long." http://t.co/CYkJ8wOzCU
The actual number Obama has helped is relatively miniscule, but where he comes down on mass incarceration is huge... http://t.co/oRZZccsU4j
Curious about those who won thus lottery and how "connected" they may have been. Aren't you? http://t.co/I9RuQ3qxHm #FelonVote
#wareagle Demaryius Thomas' mother prison sentence commuted by Barack Obama http://t.co/4p3trlXSnh via @MGMAdvertiser
Why hasn’t Obama pardoned way more people?: President Obama commuted the sentences of 46 nonviolent drug offen... http://t.co/GSJiutw4ue
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The changes are part of a national bipartisan effort to rethink decades-long sentences for drug offenders, who are roughly half the federal prison population.

Reform advocates have long criticized sentencing disparities rooted in 1980s War on Drugs legislation that targeted crack cocaine.

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The Justice Department issued new clemency criteria last year designed to encourage thousands of additional inmates to seek an early release. Two years ago, then-Attorney General Eric Holder directed federal prosecutors to avoid seeking mandatory minimum sentences - which limit the discretion of judges to impose shorter sentences - for nonviolent drug offenders.

Though sentencing guidelines are advisory rather than mandatory, judges still rely heavily on them in deciding on prison sentences. The guidelines recommend sentences that factor in the types and quantities of the drugs. The commission in April voted to lower recommended sentences across all types of drug offenses - meaning, for instance, that a cocaine package of a given size would now be linked to a shorter range of punishment than before.

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