The U.S Justice Department is set to release roughly 6,000 inmates from federal prisons starting at the end of this month as part of an effort to ease overcrowding and roll back the harsh penalties given to nonviolent drug dealers in the 1980s and ’90s.
The release will be one of the largest discharges of inmates from federal prisons in American history. It coincides with an intensifying bipartisan effort to ease the mass incarcerations that followed decades of tough sentencing for drug offenses which have taken a particularly harsh toll on minority communities.
- “Today’s announcement is nothing short of thrilling because it carries justice,” said Jesselyn McCurdy, a senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. “Far too many people have lost years of their lives to draconian sentencing laws born of the failed drug war. People of color have had to bear the brunt of these misguided and cruel policies. We are overjoyed that some of the people so wronged will get their freedom back.”
The United States has a quarter of the world’s prison population, and Republican and Democratic lawmakers agree that prison spending, which accounts for a third of the Justice Department’s budget, needs to be reduced.
Anthony Papa, a spokesman at the Drug Policy Alliance, which supports the relaxation of certain drug sentencing laws, said:
- “It warms my heart to hear that 6,000 people will be coming home.”
“The drug war has devastated families and communities, and it is time for the healing to begin,” said Mr. Papa, who himself spent 12 years behind bars on a mandatory minimum drug sentence.
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