Sentence reductions for more than 46,000 federal drug offenders might become available after a plan by the U.S. Sentencing Commission was approved Friday. This action was in response to a vote in April to amend the sentences for non-violent inmates in some drug cases.
"The amendment received unanimous support from commissioners because it is a measured approach," said Judge Patti Saris, the panel's chairperson, USA Today reported. "It reduces prison costs and populations ... while safeguarding public safety." There are more than 215,000 inmates in the federal prison system, and USA Today reports they are supported by more than 26 percent of the Justice Department’s budget. This move to pass this reduction could reduce costs.
It’s "a milestone in the effort to make more efficient use of our law enforcement resources and to ease the burden of our overcrowded prison system,” said Attorney General Eric Holder, who supports the plan. If all goes well, prisoners would become eligible for review on Nov. 1, but no one would be released until November 2015.
Federal charges filed on the state level are less harsh than those filed on the federal level. Some federal drug charges require a minimum sentence of five to 10 years. Some of the charges include simple drug possession, drug trafficking, drug manufacturing, drug conspiracy, and protected location offenses.
"The department looks forward to implementing this plan to reduce sentences for certain incarcerated individuals," Holder said. "In the interest of fairness, it makes sense to apply changes to the sentencing guidelines retroactively. ... At my direction, the Bureau of Prisons will begin notifying federal inmates of the opportunity to apply for a reduction in sentence immediately."
According to an advocacy group called, The Sentencing Project, the reason why there are so many imprisoned is because of the vehement, “war on drugs.” “At the Federal level, prisoners incarcerated on a drug charge comprise half of the prison population, while the number of drug offenders in state prisons has increased 13-fold since 1980,” the wrote. “Most of these people are not high-level actors in the drug trade, and most have no prior criminal record for a violent offense.”
The U.S. Bureau of Prisons estimate that the annual cost of incarcerating someone at the Federal level was $28,284 per inmate.