In what’s slated to be the largest inmate release ever in U.S. history, 6,000 federal prisoners will be set fee by the government next month. Over the coming year, another 8,550 inmates will also be eligible for early release.
The move, reports The Washington Post, comes after the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted last year to amend federal drug sentencing guidelines, lower the sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. Under the new guidelines, nearly half of the 100,000 drug offenders currently in federal prison in the U.S. will likely qualify to be released early, as well.
The policy change, nicknamed “Drugs Minus Two,” will reduce the sentences of eligible inmates by an average of two years, depending on the circumstances.
A wider political push, led by President Obama and several activist organizations, is also in the works to reign in the current system for imposing mandatory minimum sentences. The campaign has already resulted in clemency for 89 inmates, more than that given by any U.S. president since Lyndon B. Johnson.
The news comes just as we approach the 45th anniversary of a press conference during which President Richard Nixon’s declared the abuse of drugs “public enemy number one,” and officially kicked off the War on Drugs, largely considered a very expensive, racist failure. Some of the drug nonviolent drug offenders that are being released next month were jailed as a direct result of this in the 1980s and ‘90s.