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46,000 federal drug crimes convicts could gain early release

Earlier this year, a panel of federal judicial officials voted to reduce the length of jail sentences for thousands of individuals who are currently imprisoned on federal drug crimes convictions. The decision was celebrated by prisoner advocates and the Justice Department alike; however, it also means that the judiciary will have a lot of work to do in order to determine which prisoners will be eligible for early release. Also, a deadline of Nov. 1 is looming -- when Congress could vote to reverse the federal justices' decision.

A number of government employees will be responsible for reviewing inmate records to identify who is eligible for early release. Most of the job will be completed by judges, probation officers and public defenders. However, the process will significantly tax the resources of agencies that are already overburdened with work. Nevertheless, one important Maryland official has confirmed that government employees understand how important the process is.

Also, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has expressed its understanding of the burden this process will have on government employees, and it has agreed to give more time for agencies to prepare for the onslaught of extra work. In the state of Maryland, officials have already started to get ready, even though inmates will not start to get released for another year.

The federal sentencing guideline changes are welcomed both by the prisoners who will get released and by an overburdened federal prison system. The government will save a great deal of money by releasing these non-violent drug crime convicts and the inmates will gain their freedom after many years in jail.

Nationwide, the measure is expected to positively affect approximately 46,000 prisoners. Prince Georges residents who want to know if the change in sentencing guidelines will help themselves or their loved ones gain an early release can consult with a criminal defense attorney now.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Reducing drug sentences a big job for judiciary" Ian Duncan, Oct. 15, 2014

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