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Justice Department begins releasing thousands of federal inmates

By Amy R. Connolly
Justice Department begins releasing thousands of federal inmates
New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton said little thought has been put into the mass release of thousands of federal inmates that began Friday. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- The Justice Department began releasing more than 6,000 drug offenders Friday under new sentencing guidelines to reduce the federal prison population.

A third of the 6,112 inmates who served time in the 122 federal prisons nationwide are foreign citizens and will be deported to their home countries. Texas will receive the largest number of inmates, 597, under the policy change. Florida will receive the second largest, 310.

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The mass release is part of a bipartisan effort to reduce the federal prison population, which has grown to more than 200,000 inmates. Up to 77 percent of the inmates were already living in halfway houses or are in home containment, officials said.

A year ago, United States Sentencing Commission decided to retroactively lower maximum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. On average, sentences were reduced 18 percent.

About half of the inmates to be released through Nov. 1 were convicted of cocaine offenses, followed by methamphetamine (31.2 percent), heroin (7.4 percent) and marijuana (8.9 percent). Nearly 3 percent of the inmates were convicted of oxycodone offenses.

Some local law enforcement agencies worry the inmates are being hastily released with little thought for the future.

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"This is all going to be dropped into the laps of the American police," New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton said. "We are letting them out of jail, but treatment is not there. Job training is not there. Housing, for many of them, is not there."

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