The $1.4 billion windfall from reduced prison sentences

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US to Release 6,000 from Federal Prison


The government could be saving taxpayers more than $1 billion a year if all non-violent drug offenders in federal prison who qualify to have their sentences reviewed for reduced time were released.

By early November, the Federal Bureau of Prisons is set to release 6,000 inmates who qualify for revised sentencing guidelines for non-violent drug offenses. The new guidelines – put in place in April of 2014 – reduced the base-level sentencing guidelines for most drug offenders. In November of 2014, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to have the reduced sentencing guidelines apply to non-violent drug offenders serving sentences that were set by the previous, stiffer guidelines. In all, the commission believes that about 46,500 inmates could have their sentences reduced.

Since 1980, there has been a 754 percent spike in the number of inmates in federal prison, many of whom were driven there when America's "War on Drugs" reached a fever pitch. About 93,000 of the 205,000 inmates in federal prison—or 45 percent—are behind bars for drug offenses, and nearly half of them would be eligible for reduced sentences.

In 2014, the average cost to incarcerate federal inmates was $30,619 per inmate, according to the Federal Register. At that cost, releasing the 46,500 non-violent drug offenders eligible for reduced sentences would save taxpayers about $1.4 billion a year. Over time, the Sentencing Commission found, the new guidelines could result in nearly 80,000 fewer inmates a year, which would increase the $1.4 billion savings by more than $1 billion.

See photos of prisons in America:

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U.S. Prisons
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The $1.4 billion windfall from reduced prison sentences
A prison cell block is seen following a tour by US President Barack Obama at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015. Obama is the first sitting US President to visit a federal prison, in a push to reform one of the most expensive and crowded prison systems in the world. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE -- In this Aug. 17, 2011 file photo, reporters inspect one of the two-tiered cell pods in the Security Housing Unit at the Pelican Bay State Prison near Crescent City, Calif. Inmates say newly imposed welfare checks in the SHU have created excessive noise by the guards, causing California prison officials to hand out earplugs to inmates and tell the guards to walk softly while going about their rounds.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)
In this June 18, 2015, photo, a prisoner walks near his crowded living area in Elmore Correctional Facility in Elmore, Ala. Alabama is trying to stave off federal intervention in its overcrowded prison system with a reform package approved this spring that includes a bond issue for additional prison space and a new law making sweeping changes to sentencing and probation standards. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
In this June 18, 2015 photo, prisoners stand in a crowded lunch line during a prison tour at Elmore Correctional Facility in Elmore, Ala. Alabama is trying to stave off federal intervention in its overcrowded prison system with a reform package approved this spring that includes a bond issue for additional prison space and a new law making sweeping changes to sentencing and probation standards. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
In this June 18, 2015, photo, prisoners stand in a crowded lunch line during a prison tour at Elmore Correctional Facility in Elmore, Ala. Alabama is trying to stave off federal intervention in its overcrowded prison system with a reform package approved this spring that includes a bond issue for additional prison space and a new law making sweeping changes to sentencing and probation standards. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
An inmate with mental health conditions is handcuffed to a table while jailed in the Medium Observation Housing at the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. Conditions for mentally ill inmates in Los Angeles county have been a focus of federal probes since 1997, and the number with psychiatric disorders was an issue in a recent debate over a new jail. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An inmate with mental health conditions eats is a cell while jailed in the High Observation Housing at the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. Conditions for mentally ill inmates in Los Angeles county have been a focus of federal probes since 1997, and the number with psychiatric disorders was an issue in a recent debate over a new jail. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Handcuffs sit on a rail in the High Observation Housing at the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. Conditions for mentally ill inmates in Los Angeles county have been a focus of federal probes since 1997, and the number with psychiatric disorders was an issue in a recent debate over a new jail. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An inmate works in the kitchen at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, California, U.S., on Wednesday, March 26, 2014. California is under a federal court order to lower the population of its prisons to 137.5 percent of their designed capacity after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a ruling that inmate health care was so bad it amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Photographer: Sam Hodgson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A prison cell is seen through the door window following a tour of the cell block by US President Barack Obama at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015. Obama is the first sitting US President to visit a federal prison, in a push to reform one of the most expensive and crowded prison systems in the world. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Inmates with mental health conditions are escorted to the the Correctional Treatment Center Hospital at the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. Conditions for mentally ill inmates in Los Angeles county have been a focus of federal probes since 1997, and the number with psychiatric disorders was an issue in a recent debate over a new jail. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A bird flies over barbed wire on top of fences at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, California, U.S., on Wednesday, March 26, 2014. California is under a federal court order to lower the population of its prisons to 137.5 percent of their designed capacity after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a ruling that inmate health care was so bad it amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Photographer: Sam Hodgson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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In order for inmates to qualify for reduced sentences, they must petition a federal court to have their case reviewed by a judge who will determine the outcome. Prosecutors can object to a judge's decision if he or she believes releasing an inmate early puts the public's safety at risk.

"Against a backdrop of bipartisan support for criminal justice reform, the Sentencing Commission took several steps in recent years to reduce the federal prison population," said Michael Collins, Policy Manager at the Drug Policy Alliance. "Their last reform will result in thousands being released from prison early and transferred to half-way homes. Many more are left behind, trapped under draconian mandatory minimums that only Congress can change. The Sentencing Commission has done its job – now, it's time for Congress to take action."

The post The $1.4 Billion Windfall From Reduced Prison Sentences appeared first on Vocativ.

PHOTOS: Obama's visit to a federal prison

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Obama goes to prison
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The $1.4 billion windfall from reduced prison sentences
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Okla., Thursday, July 16, 2015. As part of a weeklong focus on inequities in the criminal justice system, the president will meet separately Thursday with law enforcement officials and nonviolent drug offenders who are paying their debt to society at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution, a medium-security prison for male offenders near Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
White House staff walk into the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Okla., Thursday, July 16, 2015. As part of a weeklong focus on inequities in the criminal justice system, the president will meet separately Thursday with law enforcement officials and nonviolent drug offenders who are paying their debt to society at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution, a medium-security prison for male offenders near Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Barack Obama speaks during a tour by Bureau of Prisons Director Charles Samuels, right, and correctional officer Ronald Warlick, Thursday, July 16, 2015, at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Okla. As part of a weeklong focus on inequities in the criminal justice system, the president will meet separately Thursday with law enforcement officials and nonviolent drug offenders who are paying their debt to society at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution, a medium-security prison for male offenders near Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Barack Obama speaks at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution, in El Reno, Okla., Thursday, July 16, 2015. As part of a weeklong focus on inequities in the criminal justice system, the president will meet separately Thursday with law enforcement officials and nonviolent drug offenders who are paying their debt to society at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution, a medium-security prison for male offenders near Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Barack Obama looks inside a cell as he is led on a tour by Bureau of Prisons Director Charles Samuels, right, and correctional officer Ronald Warlick during a visit to the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Okla., Thursday, July 16, 2015. As part of a weeklong focus on inequities in the criminal justice system, the president will meet separately Thursday with law enforcement officials and nonviolent drug offenders who are paying their debt to society at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution, a medium-security prison for male offenders near Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Barack Obama is reflected in a cell window during a tour of the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Okla., Thursday, July 16, 2015. As part of a weeklong focus on inequities in the criminal justice system, the president will meet separately Thursday with law enforcement officials and nonviolent drug offenders who are paying their debt to society at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution, a medium-security prison for male offenders near Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
A prison cell is seen through the door window following a tour of the cell block by US President Barack Obama at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015. Obama is the first sitting US President to visit a federal prison, in a push to reform one of the most expensive and crowded prison systems in the world. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama speaks at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Okla., Thursday, July 16, 2015. As part of a weeklong focus on inequities in the criminal justice system, the president will meet separately Thursday with law enforcement officials and nonviolent drug offenders who are paying their debt to society at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution, a medium-security prison for male offenders near Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US President Barack Obama tours a cell block at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015. Obama is the first sitting US President to visit a federal prison, in a push to reform one of the most expensive and crowded prison systems in the world. AFP PHOTO/ SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
A prison cell block is seen following a tour by US President Barack Obama at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015. Obama is the first sitting US President to visit a federal prison, in a push to reform one of the most expensive and crowded prison systems in the world. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Secret Service and Prison guards stand on the roof as US President Barack Obama tours a cell block at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015. Obama is the first sitting US President to visit a federal prison, in a push to reform one of the most expensive and crowded prison systems in the world. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Police and a prison guard patrol the entrance of the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015, during a visit by US President Barack Obama. Obama is the first sitting US President to visit a federal prison, in a push to reform one of the most expensive and crowded prison systems in the world. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama walks through the prison yard during a tour of the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015. Obama is the first sitting US President to visit a federal prison, in a push to reform one of the most expensive and crowded prison systems in the world. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
A Secret Service police officer stands outside El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Okla., Thursday, July 16, 2015. As part of a weeklong focus on inequities in the criminal justice system, the president will meet separately Thursday with law enforcement officials and nonviolent drug offenders who are paying their debt to society at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution, a medium-security prison for male offenders near Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Members of the Secret Service and security forces arrive at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015, for a visit by US President Barack Obama. Obama is the first sitting US President to visit a federal prison, in a push to reform one of the most expensive and crowded prison systems in the world. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
The entrance to El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015, as US President Barack Obama arrives for a visit. Obama is the first sitting US President to visit a federal prison, in a push to reform one of the most expensive and crowded prison systems in the world. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama's motorcade arrives at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015. Obama is the first sitting US President to visit a federal prison, in a push to reform one of the most expensive and crowded prison systems in the world. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama walks from Marine One to Air Force One prior to departure from Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
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