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Nonviolent federal drug offenders could be released early

By Justin King     Jul 19, 2014 in World
Washington, D. C. - A federal panel has decided to retroactively apply the new guidelines for sentencing federal inmates. This could send tens of thousands of nonviolent drug offenders home early.
The United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) voted unanimously to retroactively apply the new regulations. This gives the 46,290 inmates that qualify the opportunity for early release. This would reduce the federal prison population by one-fifth, still leaving it 12% over capacity. The average sentence reduction will be roughly two years.
Prisoners will still have to file a motion with judges to receive the sentencing reduction, and judges are not bound to resentence the inmate according to the new lower guidelines. Judges may choose to stay with the original sentence if the offender is a danger to public safety, though most are expected to resentence nonviolent inmates and grant the early release. Congress can also vote to reject the USSC’s decision, if they act before November.
The USSC received more than 60,000 letters from prison reformers, clergy, civil rights activists, judges, and academics before issuing its decision. The chairwoman of the commission stated the letters overwhelmingly supported the change.
Extended sentences for nonviolent drug offenders has been sharply criticized from almost every corner with the notable exception of Federal prosecutors who use the long sentences to force accused citizens to give up their right to trial in exchange for a shorter sentence. That behavior has been condemned by Human Rights Watch.
More about United States Sentencing Commission, drug offenders, Drug war, Early release, federal inmates
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