Advocates Welcome Federal Prison Releases; Mandatory Minimums Remain


The 6.112 federal prisoners now being freed earlier than scheduled had sentences that originally averaged 10.5 years and were reduced to an average of 8.5 years, according to the Justice Department. The laws imposing mandatory minimum sentences of decades for some repeat or large-scale offenders remain in effect, the New York Times reports. “People are still getting slammed pretty hard for drug offenses,” said Ohio State University law Prof. Douglas Berman, an expert on sentencing. Citing overcrowding in federal prisons, where half of inmates are in for drug convictions, the U.S. Sentencing Commission last year made downward adjustments in the scoring system for determining sentences and made the changes retroactive. The panel said all reductions in existing sentences must be approved by a judge, who can weigh the risks to the public.

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