AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
American correctional facilities are massively overcrowded.

The US is setting thousands of early-release prisoners free

By Hanna Kozlowska

The US Justice Department is set to spring 6,000 federal inmates from prison before their sentences are complete, the Washington Post reports, in the largest one-time release of inmates in US history. The release, between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2, is the first tranche of what could eventually total 46,000 early-release prisoners, and is accompanied by a push by president Barack Obama to mitigate the effects of harsh drug sentencing laws and to ease overcrowding in prisons.

The US criminal justice system imposes severe mandatory minimum sentences on low-level, non-violent drug offenders. Nearly half of federal drug offenders have little or no criminal history.

Quartz has contacted the Justice Department and will update this story with any comment.

Most of the inmates who will be released in the following weeks by the Bureau of Prisons will first go to halfway homes and be subject to home confinement before being put on supervised release.

The US Sentencing Commission voted last year to shorten sentences for future drug offenses, and to allow nearly 50,000 drug offenders to apply for reduced sentences. A second tranche, made up of about 8,550 prisoners, will be eligible for early release in the 12 months beginning Nov. 1.

Separately, President Obama has commuted the sentences of a total of 76 nonviolent drug offenders in his own effort to reform the country’s criminal justice system.