Prison cell block

6,000 Inmates to be Released

The U.S. Department of Justice sentencing guidelines that were introduced in April 2014 are about to produce the release of 6,000 inmates from federal penitentiaries in the near future.

The Obama Administration wants to reduce prison populations for financial reasons while focusing on rehabilitation for those who are convicted of non-violent crimes. Those being released early have been reevaluated by a judge who then issued the release order. The federal prison system is currently overcrowded due to a variety of reasons and the 6,000 total is just the beginning.

The U.S. Situation

The United States houses 25% of the world’s prisoners, with most of those being non-violent drug offenders. The call from the U.S. Department of Justice also includes the concept that the United States should get consistent with the rest of the civilized world with regard to criminal prosecution, which has also been recognized by other nations. Incarceration is not always the best answer for an individual who can be rehabilitated through the prosecution system. While some individuals may not be good candidates for behavior modification (as it is true that some individuals are not good candidates for bail), the same is not true of those who may be held based on the sentencing guidelines. The three strikes rule is also problematic when all three convictions are of a non-violent nature.

Financial Concerns

The financial concerns for operating overcrowded prisons is also a major issue. Maintaining federal prisons soaks up one-third of the Department of Justice budget, which could then be reduced or used in different areas of providing federal policing. Crime prevention is very important to overzealous court officers, and incarceration is usually the primary deterrent. The focus on rehabilitation along with reduced prison populations could result in a better outcome for the convicts, even though many may still do a significant amount of their sentence.

Many police officers and court officials think this is not a sound decision by the federal government. Police across the nation who deal with crime on a daily basis say that often a criminal goes uncharged for crimes they commit, as many who have been charged were living an absolute life of crime on the street. Their behavior began many years before the arrest came about. Arrests are often made on information provided from those who may also be involved or know of the activity. According to most police officers, crime is a real element of society and strong penalties are the answer. The problem is that it has become an industry in most states. While this policy is only being implemented at the federal level for now, the impetus is also on the states to follow the model and reduce state prison populations as well.

The DOJ program was also implemented with a retroactive provision for those currently incarcerated to request a reevaluation by a federal judge. The releases are not all initiated by the Department of Justice, as prisoners can contact their attorneys to file a motion for early release under the new sentencing guidelines. The 6,000 leaving prison now may be the tip of the iceberg, and judges on all system levels may also be enticed to allow lower bonds or more releases on own recognizance for non-violent offenders. However, this is usually done by local court policy, so the potential for the change in bonding policy within the states may be very slow to change. Release from jail on federal charges could be a completely different issue.

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