The action that President Obama has been taking regarding non-violent drug offenders has done a lot to give people in the United States hope for real justice. It is not the simple act of granting clemency alone that is doing it, either. Today the Justice Department announced that in an effort to reduce crowding and provide relief to drug offenders who received harsh sentences over the past three decades, 6000, yes SIX THOUSAND people are being released early.
The United States for-profit Prison Industrial Complex (basically, the for-profit slave labor market) is a failed endeavor. It did not fail in making billions for billionaires, but it did in making any real change here in the US. The idea that mass incarceration could ever make a positive difference was firmly based in the profits it would make for huge corporations.
The inmates will be released between October 30th and November 2 from prisons across the nation due to sweeping reforms in the justice department being made retroactive. These prisoners were nearly all the victims of cruel high minimum sentences for non-violent crimes due to the failed so-called “war on drugs.” Unfortunately, these people will still have to deal with having a federal crime on their record when they get out, plus the years of imprisonment we can not take away.
The change in sentencing guidelines eventually could result in 46,000 of the nation’s approximately 100,000 drug offenders in federal prison qualifying for early release.
The 6,000 figure, which has not been reported previously, is the first group to be processed. About 8,000 more are expected this year in the move towards getting almost HALF of the drug offenders out of federal prison.
The releases are part of a much-needed shift, lead by our President in word and in deed, in America’s approach to criminal justice and drug sentencing that has been driven by a bipartisan consensus that mass incarceration has failed and should be reversed.
Along with the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s action, the Justice Department has instructed its prosecutors not to charge low-level, nonviolent drug offenders who have no connection to gangs or large-scale drug organizations with offenses that carry severe mandatory sentences. Federal judges have also been instructed to carefully consider public safety while considering any inmates release:
Even with the Sentencing Commission’s reductions, drug offenders will have served substantial prison sentences,” Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said. “Moreover, these reductions are not automatic. Under the commission’s directive, federal judges are required to carefully consider public safety in deciding whether to reduce an inmate’s sentence.
This is real change, and it is happening because of real leadership. Thanks, Obama!
Feature image via Wikimedia Common