Thousands of Federal Drug Offenders Being Released Early Starting Today

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Thousands of Federal Drug Offenders Being Released Early Starting Today

By The Washington Post

earlyAbout 6,000 federal inmates whose drug sentences were reduced will begin making their way home Friday from halfway houses and prisons across the country as a result of policy changes made by the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

A third of the 6,112 inmates who served time in the 122 facilities run by the Bureau of Prisons are foreign citizens and will be transferred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and eventually deported. Texas will receive the largest number of inmates affected by the policy change, 597, and Florida will receive the second-largest number, 310.

About 80 percent of the 4,348 inmates remaining in the U.S. will be released from halfway houses or home confinement between Oct. 30 and Nov. 1; the other 20 percent will return to neighborhoods straight from prison and under the supervision of probation officers, a Justice Department official said.

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They include inmates such as Therese Crepeau, 45, who served 21 years of a 35-year crack and powder cocaine conspiracy sentence. She applied for clemency from President Obama, but he never ruled on her petition.

With the commission’s move, Crepeau became eligible for the sentence reduction, which is referred to as “Drugs Minus Two” because the policy change decreases the sentencing value attached to most drug-trafficking offenses by two levels.

The sentencing commission, a bipartisan, independent agency and not part of the White House, reduced the potential punishment for all future drug offenders last year and then made that change retroactive. At the time, the commission said the change in sentencing guidelines could result in 46,000 of the nation’s 100,000 federal drug offenders qualifying for early release.

The group of 6,000 inmates is the first to be released. Another 8,550 inmates are eligible for early release between Oct. 30 and Nov. 1, 2016, according to the sentencing commission. The inmates are mostly black and Hispanic men in their early 40s who have served an average of nearly nine years in prison. The average sentence of inmates released is 10.5 years. About 79 percent of the drug charges involved cocaine and methamphetamine.

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