In an effort to lessen overcrowding in prisons, the Department of Justice is scheduled to release about 6,000 prisoners by the end of October. In addition, setting the prisoners free is also an action to roll back severe penalties that were given to drug dealers, who are non-violent, during the 80s and 90s. The freeing of 6,000 prisons will be nationwide and will start on October 30 up to November 2.
According to the Washington Post, one-third of the prisoners to be released are not U.S. citizens who will be deported to their homelands, and the remaining two-thirds will be sent to home confinement or halfway houses before being set free on a supervised release.
Last year, the U.S. Sentencing Commission, an agency that is responsible for mandating federal crime policies, reduced the severity of punishments for drug offenders. The change that was set forth was retroactive, which is part of why the prisoners from the past three decades are being released early.
After the new guidelines have been set, prisoners can now seek for the reassessment of their cases from federal judges. The inmate’s behavior in prison will be assessed, along with their potential to do harm when released.
The lessening of the sentences of drug offenders, however, does not mean that they will not be paying for their crimes accordingly. A deputy attorney general that works with the Department of Justice said that drug offenders will still be given substantial prison time.
Moreover, the release of drug offenders will not be automatic. For the safety of the general population, federal judges are going through each case for consideration and will decide whether or not the inmate will pose a threat to the public when released.
The mass release of 6,000 prisoners is one of the largest in history. Jesselyn McCurdy from the American Civil Liberties Union released a statement following the announcement of the prisoners’ release, as reported by the NY Times.
“Today’s announcement is nothing short of thrilling because it carries justice. Far too many people have lost years of their lives to draconian sentencing laws born of the failed drug war. People of color have had to bear the brunt of these misguided and cruel policies. We are overjoyed that some of the people so wronged will get their freedom back.”
The news of the 6,000 prisoners’ release was met with both praise and contempt. While there are those who believe that these prisoners have spent enough time for their crimes, there are those who fear that many of the released prisoners will not be able to get jobs to support themselves and will just return to a life of crime.
A former police chief from South Bend, Indiana, Ronald Teachman, said that prisoners who are set free are “angry and more likely to offend.”
According to Prison Studies, the United States has the highest number in prison population, roughly one-fourth of the prison population in the entire world, at 2.2 million prisoners. The U.S. is followed by China, which has 1.6 prisoners. With the number, it is no surprise that prisons across the country are overpopulated. One thing Democrat and Republican lawmakers agree on is the reduction of prison spending, which is currently at one-third of the overall budget of the Department of Justice.
What do you think about the mass release of 6,000 prisoners? Do you think they deserve a second chance at life, or do you think that their release from prison will bring harm to the public? Share your comments below.
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