Yesterday, the Department of Justice announced that it would be releasing approximately 6,000 federal prisoners early as a means of alleviating some of the damage done by years of overly harsh drug sentencing.
Washington Post reports:
The early release follows action by the U.S. Sentencing Commission — an independent agency that sets sentencing policies for federal crimes — that reduced the potential punishment for future drug offenders last year and then made that change retroactive.
The panel estimated that its change in sentencing guidelines eventually could result in 46,000 of the nation’s approximately 100,000 drug offenders in federal prison qualifying for early release. The 6,000 figure, which has not been reported previously, is the first tranche in that process.…
The releases are part of a shift in the nation’s approach to criminal justice and drug sentencing that has been driven by a bipartisan consensus that mass incarceration has failed and should be reversed.
Along with the commission’s action, the Justice Department has instructed its prosecutors not to charge low-level, nonviolent drug offenders who have no connection to gangs or large-scale drug organizations with offenses that carry severe mandatory sentences.
It is unclear how many of the prisoners being released had been sentenced for marijuana-related violations, but this is surely a step in the right direction toward more just and humane drug policy.