The Justice Department Announced A Huge Move To Ease America's Overcrowded Prisons

"Far too many people have lost years of their lives to draconian sentencing laws born of the failed drug war."

Amid the momentum in the push for criminal justice reform, U.S. officials announced that the Justice Department will release 6,000 inmates early from prison, the largest release of federal prisoners at once. The release is part of an effort to relieve jails overcrowded by the harsh penalties enacted in the 1980s and '90s. 

The releaseS will take place between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2. Some two-thirds of them will go to halfway houses and home confinement before being put on supervised release, and one-third, who are foreigners, will be deported. Many in the latter group were convicted of serious offenses, according to The New York Times

The announcement alerted prosecutors and police officials, who are concerned that there could be a spike in crime. But the DOJ pointed out that a large number of those released would be deported and cited a study that found the recidivism rate of crack cocaine offenders who were released early did not differ much from the those who finished their sentences.

Calls for criminal justice reform in recent years have grown. Across party aisles, many lawmakers support rolling back tough sentencing for drug offenses — particularly nonviolent ones, such as crack cocaine dealing — that have seen America's prison population skyrocket.

The tough laws have had a particularly devastating effect on minority groups

Jesselyn McCurdy, a senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, told The New York Times that the move was just. "Far too many people have lost years of their lives to draconian sentencing laws born of the failed drug war," she added. "People of color have had to bear the brunt of these misguided and cruel policies. We are overjoyed that some of the people so wronged will get their freedom back."

Cover image via iStock / Wavebreakmedia