Some 6,112 federal inmates will begin making their way home tomorrow from halfway houses and prisons across the U.S. as a result of policy changes made by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the Washington Post reports. One-third of the group are foreign citizens and will be transferred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and eventually deported to their home countries. The sentencing commission reduced the potential punishment for all future drug offenders last year and then made that change retroactive. At the time, the commission said the change in sentencing guidelines could result in 46,000 of the nation's approximately 100,000 federal drug offenders qualifying for early release. Another 8,550 inmates are eligible for early release between Oct. 30 and Nov. 1, 2016.
The inmates are mostly black and Hispanic men in their early 40s who have served an average of nearly nine years in prison. The average sentence of inmates released is 10.5 years. About 79 percent of the drug charges involved cocaine and methamphetamine. The Justice Department has been preparing for the inmate release for the last year and a half, coordinating the effort with immigration, court, prison and probation officials. Justice officials do not have information on how many of the inmates have jobs yet. Because the Bureau of Prisons contracts with most of the halfway houses, the quality of reentry services varies widely. “It's something we're definitely taking a look at and keeping an eye on,” the Justice official said. While the release of about 6,000 inmates is the largest one-time federal prison release, the Bureau of Prisons releases about 70,000 inmates a year.