Six thousand federal inmates from around the country will be released from prison between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2, the Washington Post reports. It's the largest mass release of federal prisoners ever. The inmates are drug offenders whose sentences are being cut short based on a US Sentencing Commission decision last year. The commission reduced potential maximum punishments for drug offenders and made that decision retroactive. The releases announced Tuesday are just the first of what could be up to 46,000 drug offenders released early under the sentencing changes. The "overwhelming majority" of more than 80,000 public comments received by the commission supported the change.
The Justice Department says approximately one-third of the 6,000 inmates being released are foreign citizens who will be deported, the Post reports. The rest will transition to halfway houses or house arrest then supervised release. Inmates must petition for early release, and judges will review their petitions on a case-by-case basis. So far, judges are granting about 70 early releases a week. Some of those being released early have been in prison for decades, but the average reduction is from a 10.5-year sentence to 8.5 years. The Justice Department hopes the early releases will reduce the financial burden of overcrowding in prisons. (Read more drug sentence stories.)