The United States is setting thousands of early-release prisoners free

The mass release will occur between October 30 and November. 2, officials said, and will be the largest one-time prisoner release in US history.

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The inmates that are being released are drug offenders and are now eligible for release due to recent changes in federal drug sentences. The panel reduced the potential punishment for drug offenders a year ago and made the change retroactive.

The releases are part of a shift in the nation’s approach to criminal justice and drug sentencing.

The Sentencing Commission estimated that an additional 8,550 inmates will be eligible for release between this Nov. 1 and Nov. 1, 2016. “The Sentencing Commission’s actions – which create modest reductions for drug offenders – is a step toward these necessary reforms”.

“It’s a matter of basic fairness to make sure people who were sentenced before a new law or policy are treated equally”, said Nazgol Ghandnoosh, a research analyst with The Sentencing Project, which advocated for the guidelines to be applied retroactively. Holder endorsed the new guidelines last summer. “Moreover, these reductions are not automatic”. On average about 70 petitions a week nationwide have been granted.

Under the program, a judge reviews each prisoner’s case to decide if his or her release would jeopardize public safety. Many were already in half-way houses.

In a few cases, federal judges have denied inmates’ requests for early release.

Justice Department spokeswoman Emily Pierce said that roughly one-third of those released will be deported because they are not US citizens.

The amendment went into effect in November 2014, but the Commission voted not to permit the release of any prisoners until this year.

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Last week, a group of senators introduced a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill, the first such legislation in decades.

America's federal prisons will see their populations thin out a bit in the next few weeks