Reductions in Federal Drug Terms Could Save $2.1 Billion

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The U.S. Sentencing Commission has issued a new data document reporting that under its so-called “drugs -2” guideline amendment, 29,391 federal prisoners have had their federal drug prison sentences reduced by an average of over two years, says Ohio State University law Prof. Doug Berman on his Sentencing Law and Policy blog. Using a conservative estimate that each extra year of imprisonment for federal drug offenders costs on average $35,000, the commission’s decision to make its “drugs -2” guideline amendment retroactive appears to be on track to save federal taxpayers around $2.1 billion dollars, Berman says.

Berman praises the panel “for providing evidence that at least some government bureaucrats inside the Beltway will sometimes vote to reduce the size and taxpayer costs of the federal government. Perhaps more importantly, especially as federal statutory sentencing reforms remained stalled in Congress and as President Obama continues to be relatively cautious in his use of his clemency power, this data provide still more evidence that the work of the U.S. Sentencing Commission in particular, and of the federal judiciary in general, remains the most continuously important and consequential force influencing federal prison populations and sentencing outcomes.”

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