Thousands of Non-Violent Drug Offenders Getting Early Release

prisonAbout 6,000 federal prisoners currently incarcerated for drug offenses are set to be released soon. This is the largest release at one time in the United States, and comes after the U.S. Sentencing Commission agreed to reduce the required amount of time drug offenders are mandated to serve.

This mandate stays in line with what most of the country has come to understand; jailing drug offenders is not the answer to the drug problem in the United States. There are potentially more than 45,000 inmates who could get an earlier release under these new regulations.

The White House has also been pushing for federal and state guidelines to change when it comes to drug offenders; however the decision by the U.S. Sentencing Commission was made separately. Up until recently, federal guidelines had severe time requirements attached to drug offenses. After the policy change, the average amount of time that the commission reduced the time required to serve for drug crimes was two years. Most of the prisoners that are set for release will have, on average, served 8 ½ years of their 10 ½ year sentence.

“Even with the Sentencing Commission’s reductions, drug offenders will have served substantial prison sentences. Moreover, these reductions are not automatic. Under the commission’s directive, federal judges are required to carefully consider public safety in deciding whether to reduce an inmate’s sentence,” commented Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.

The public and government push for the reduction in required time for drug offenses has come after many people realized that treating offenders with rehabilitation and counseling is much more effective than keeping them in prison. After several decades of stiff penalties for drug-related crimes, the drug-use rate in the United States has either climbed or remained steady. Proponents of the decrease point out that this is because jailing offenders does very little to rehabilitate them, in fact many offenders either use in prison or make more drug contacts while behind bars.

The offenders that are set to be released will not automatically go home. They are required to go to a half-way house for a pre-determined amount of time and then they will be given a monitored release. Hopefully, this will also include some form of drug treatment or counseling to help prevent relapse and recidivism.

Tennessee Opens First State-Wide Recovery Court

The concept of a drug court has been around for years on local levels, and various prison systems have attempted to provide treatment for drug-addicted inmates, but Tennessee has taken both of those a step further and opened the first state-wide residential recovery court.

As detailed in the Knoxville News Sentinel, an opening ceremony yesterday featured an appearance from Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, as well as other dignitaries.

The program was modeled after a nearby county program and will house up to 100 male nonviolent drug offenders and lasts for nine months for each person to complete. On hand for the opening ceremony were two of the first participants, who were grateful for the opportunity to attend and get their lives back on track rather than serving out a regular jail sentence.

In addition to opening up state beds for serious criminals, the recovery court reportedly costs only $35 per day to operate, whereas the costs for traditional incarceration in the state are about $65 per day.

Undoubtedly there will be several other states eying this project to hopefully implement their own residential recovery courts, as treatment yields much better results overall compared to traditional incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders.

Of course it is better for people to be diverted to outside rehab programs before they get to the point of being faced with jail or prison time for convictions. If you or someone you love is in need of addiction treatment in Tennessee or any other state, contact us today and we can assist you in finding a facility that can help.