Monday, July 21, 2014
Panel Approves Early Release Of Federal Drug Prisoners
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
The United States Sentencing Commission voted unanimously Friday to apply a reduction in the sentencing guideline levels applicable to most federal drug trafficking offenders retroactively, meaning that many offenders currently in prison could be eligible for reduced sentences beginning November of next year.
The commission voted previously this year to amend the guidelines to lower the base offense levels in the Drug Quantity Table across drug types, which may result in lower sentences for drug offenders, in the future. Friday, the commission decided that judges were authorized to extend sentence reduction to offenders currently in prison.
Under the guidelines, no offender would be released unless a judge reviews the case to \determine whether a reduced sentence poses a risk to public safety and is otherwise appropriate. The commission noted in a release that Federal Bureau of Prisons population exceeds capacity by around 32 percent.
The commission estimated that 46,290 offenders would be eligible to have their cases reviewed by a judge to determine if their sentences should be reduced.
Offenders eligible for a reduction could have their sentences reduced by an average of 25 months, or 18.8 percent. They would still serve 108 months, on average, the commission said, adding that over time, these sentence reductions could result in a savings of up to 79,740 bed years (a bed year is the equivalent of one federal prisoner occupying a prison bed for a year).
These early releases are not likely to lead to an increase in recidivism, the commission said, citing a study that followed a similar 2007 amendment reducing sentences for crack cocaine offenders. The study showed that those offenders were no more likely to reoffend than offenders who had served their original sentences.
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