In the largest move of it’s kind, the U.S. Department of Justice is set to release 6,000 inmates who were convicted of drug-related crimes. The decision by the DoJ is the latest blow to the decades-long war on drugs in America.
From October 30 to November 2, the Bureau of Prisons will release the drug-related inmates. Approximately 2,000 are foreign nationals who will be immediately deported, with the remaining 4,000 to be released to halfway houses. The move comes after the U.S. Sentencing Commission reduced penalties for future non-violent crimes. Now, the Commission plans to retroactively apply the changes, resulting in the large-scale release.
According to the New York Times, Jesselyn McCurdy, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said, “Today’s announcement is nothing short of thrilling because it carries justice. Far too many people have lost years of their lives to draconian sentencing laws born of the failed drug war. 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.”
The action from the Department of Justice is separate from the clemency granted by President Obama to federal drug convicts earlier this year. However, the change in federal drug sentencing rules demonstrates an overall change in how our government and society view the war on drugs.
In addition to the shift in perspective at the federal level, states are changing their approach to drug-related incarceration as well. In September, Missouri Governor Jeremiah Nixon granted clemency to the state’s last remaining marijuana-related prisoner serving life without parole. After Oregon legalized recreational marijuana, state officials are allowing past convicts of cannabis-related offenses to have their records sealed.
The fact that there is bi-partisan support for drug policy reform at both the state and federal levels is an extremely hopeful sign for advocates and victims of the drug war.