A major decision by the U.S. Sentencing Commission will lead to a reduction in the potential consequences that are handed out to drug offenders in the future. What's more is that the new move, which will take effect in November, will retroactively apply to current inmates as well, thus giving them the chance to request leniency in their drug case.
According to the commission, that means roughly 46,000 current inmates serving time for federal drug crimes will be eligible to reduce their sentence. The commission says that, on average, these people who successfully receive leniency will shave two years off their sentence.
What's most amazing about that statistic is that the 46,000 people eligible for leniency is nearly half the prison population that are convicted of federal drug crimes.
This is just another step towards changing our view of drug crimes. Even if you could objectively say that all drug crimes need to be punished, you would probably find that many people don't think the punishment should be as excessive as it is in the current system. Federal drug crimes ruin the lives of the people who are convicted of them.
These penalties associated with these crimes churn out people who are essentially "unhireable" as potential employees, and that can start an unending downward spiral that forces the person to turn back to a life of crime.
We need to correct the problem -- as the name "Department of Corrections" literally implies -- not throw excessive and possibly-ineffective prison sentences at it.
Source: Washington Post, "Thousands of felons could have drug sentences lessened," Jerry Markon and Rachel Weiner, July 18, 2014