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More Than 46,000 Drug Offenders Eligible for Early Release Under Plan

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Cocaine 4-4-13

More than 46,000 drug offenders will be eligible for early release from prison, after the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to reduce terms for low-level drug traffickers who are already incarcerated. The vote was unanimous, NPR reports.

The sentences could be reduced by an average of more than two years, unless Congress stops the plan by November 1.

“This amendment received unanimous support from Commissioners because it is a measured approach,” Judge Patti B. Saris, Chair of the Commission, said in a news release. “It reduces prison costs and populations and responds to statutory and guidelines changes since the drug guidelines were initially developed, while safeguarding public safety.”

Each offender’s petition will be considered individually by federal judges, the article notes. None of them will be released before November 1, 2015.

In April, the Commission voted to reduce the base offense for criminals caught with various amounts of drugs. The new vote makes the reduced sentencing guidelines retroactive for most drug traffickers. In June, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the new sentencing guidelines will make the federal prison system more fair to minorities, and will reduce taxpayer costs.

Under the guidelines, about 20,000 of the almost 215,000 inmates in federal prisons would be eligible for reduced sentences. Nonviolent, low-level drug offenders who do not have deep criminal ties would qualify for retroactive sentences.

The Justice Department says reducing mandatory-minimums will save billions of dollars. One-quarter of the department’s budget is used to maintain federal prisons, accounting for about $6.4 billion annually.

5 Responses to this article

  1. Avatar of Jim Dickey
    Jim Dickey / August 4, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    The two drugs which cause the most harm (and death) in our society are alcohol and tobacco. Approximately half of all tobacco smokers will die as a result of being addicted to that drug. There are no commonly used illicit drugs which can compare with the harm tobacco causes. From NIDA: Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States (http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cigarettes-other-tobacco-products). If you understand addiction then you know “When you can stop you don’t want to, and when you want to stop, you can’t (Luke Davies). An addicted person is aware their behavior is causing problems in their lives but is unable to control their drug seeking and using. Before they can change, they must be highly motivated and discover tools to use to help them through periods of craving. This includes people who sell drugs. Because drug prices are artificially inflated due to the War on Drugs, people will do what they have to do to maintain their addictions, including selling drugs. Before we start imprisoning or killing every smoker who gives someone else a cigarette, or every addict who sells illicit drugs, maybe we could spend a little time encouraging them to transition from using to abstinence.

  2. Dave Finch / July 24, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Equating drug dealing with murder tells me that Sandra has bought into the myth that all psychotropic drug use is harmful. In fact as experts such as Mark Kleiman and his colleagues have shown, the majority of drug users are stable, employed, middle class people. A dealer who supplies these more or less responsible drug users is not murdering them. A dealer who sells to minors, especially to first time childhood experimenters, is evil and and as far as I am concerned they can throw away the key on those creeps. It is among the children that addiction starts, and studies suggest brain damage may occur in the developing brain. But, murder? Let’s keep perspective here. A good source of concrete and science based information about the reality of drugs and drug use can be found in KILL THE DRUG TRADE available on Amazon in print and Kindle editions. Preview it at my website at http://www.finchdiablog.com

    • Esther Wanning / July 24, 2014 at 4:24 pm

      If a person were to think that all drug dealers were murderers, one would have to include the dealers in that most common of drugs, alcohol.

  3. Jim Recktenwald / July 23, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    If I take a life, I do not allow the other to have any response other than death. If I sell drugs, I am inviting another to participate in death. Only in that sense can dealing dope and murder be compared. However, equating the two acts does more to cheapen a human life than dealing dope. Such fuzzy thinking has filled prisons with men and women who “possessed” a certain amount of pot or heroin or cocaine–whether or not they were dealing it or buying it for their own use. Effectively speaking, such fuzzy thinking has murdered the chances of many otherwise normal and good people simply because they were addicted to drugs. Such fuzzy thinking equates murder and addiction. We would do well to learn the difference between the two before our denial traps us, or our children, behind bars learning the finer points of murder from folks who have no feeling for human life.

  4. sandra hawkins / July 22, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    if people deal in drugs then they are just as bad as murderers

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