WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 (UPI) — The U.S. Department of Justice will reportedly release more than 6,000 inmates from federal prisons across the country, beginning this month, due to rising prison populations and punishments now considered unjust that were exacted decades ago on nonviolent drug offenders.
The mass release will occur between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2, officials said, and will be the largest one-time prisoner release in U.S. history.
The decision is part of an overall plan by Justice leaders to get the escalating nationwide prison population under control — and provide a respite for nonviolent inmates who have spent, in some cases, decades behind bars due to the overly tough punitive terms handed out by courts during the 1980s and 1990s.
The Justice Department has not yet formally announced the plan to release prisoners. The New York Times cited anonymous sources in reporting the story.
Earlier this year, the United States Sentencing Commission announced changes to guidelines that eased penalties for nonviolent drug offenders, who were subjected to harsh prison terms under different, tougher guidelines in past decades.
A rising U.S. prison population has continued for years, prompting many leaders to devise possible solutions to ease overcrowding and trim down the Justice Department’s budget — a third of which is spent annually keeping federal prisons operating.
The United States Sentencing Commission said in April that its change in guidelines could potentially qualify nearly half of the country’s nonviolent drug offenders for early release.
The Justice Department’s reported plan echoes action taken by President Barack Obama, who has advocated clemency for thousands of nonviolent drug offenders. Obama’s initiative has so far resulted in the early release of 89 inmates, The Washington Post reported.