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Near-historic number of inmates to be released from federal prison

Statistics show that roughly 25 percent of the world's prison population can be found here in the United States, while as much as one third of the Justice Department's annual budget goes to covering the costs of our nation's many prisons.

As staggering as these numbers are to the average person, they have been even more so to members of Congress and DOJ officials, many of whom have become increasingly active over the last few years in their efforts to reform the criminal justice system. 

These efforts perhaps started in earnest with former Attorney General Eric Holder, who urged the U.S. Sentencing Commission to revisit the draconian sentencing guidelines that came into being in the 1980s calling for unduly harsh prison terms for nonviolent, low-level drug crimes.

Meaningful change finally came last April, when the Sentencing Commission announced that these severe sentences for nonviolent drug crimes would be reduced going forward. Just a few months later, it announced that the revised guidelines could be applied retroactively, such that those already behind bars could ask federal judges to reassess their sentences and determine whether release was appropriate.

Fast forward to the present and nearly 6,000 people previously sent to federal prison for many years for nonviolent, low-level drug crimes are now scheduled to be released at the end of the month.

"Far too many people have lost years of their lives to draconian sentencing laws born of the failed drug war," said an official with the American Civil Liberties Union of the historic release. "We are overjoyed that some of the people so wronged will get their freedom back.”

It's worth noting that not everyone is thrilled with this impending mass release of low-level drug offenders.

Indeed, many law enforcement officials are concerned that many former inmates will not have received the necessary job skills or assimilation training, such that they will prove unable to find employment and essentially be forced back into a life of crime post-release.

While the effects of this prolonged incarceration on the 6,000-some people being released won't be apparent for quite some time, it's nevertheless encouraging that lawmakers from both parties remain aware of the need to continue to reform the criminal justice system.

If you are under investigation or have been arrested for any sort of criminal offense -- felony or misdemeanor -- please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.

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