WASHINGTON — Thousands of dangerous federal prison inmates will be released in November as a result of the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s decision to lower federal sentencing for all drug trafficking and distribution crimes, two Republican lawmakers warned Tuesday.
According to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, the release will include inmates with violent criminal histories who committed crimes involving assault, firearms, and even murder.
Goodlatte and Grassley sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch Wednesday asking for more information about these inmates including a history of offenses for each offender projected release date, any known aliases of the offender along with the full legal name, the offender’s country of citizenship, and whether BOP has notified or intends to notify ICE about the release of any unlawful criminal aliens.
“It is our understanding that tens of thousands of federal inmates are eligible for early release as a result, and that the BOP inmate population will fall by more than 12,000 inmates by the end of fiscal year 2016. Overall, the Sentencing Commission has estimated that 46,376 prisoners are eligible for early release under Amendment 782 — with nearly 8,000 offenders eligible for immediate release on November 1, 2015,” they wrote.
Last year, the Sentencing Commission made a two-level reduction, through Amendment 782, in the base offense levels for all drug trafficking and distribution offenses — including those that impose mandatory minimum sentences. Those reductions are retroactive and apply to every drug offense inmate in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons. Thousands of inmates filed motions for sentence reductions in their jurisdictions within the last year.
Grassley and Goodlatte initially sent a letter to the Commission when changes to the sentences were first being considered last year, but say their requests for further information were ignored.
They wrote in their March 2014 letter, “We understand that the Commission’s objective is to lower sentences for so called ‘low-level non violent’ drug offenders who have nevertheless triggered mandatory minimum sentence by trafficking large quantities of drugs. However, this amendment would reduce the base offense level and corresponding guideline range for all drug defendants. The result of the Sentencing Commission’s proposal will be to reward drug traffickers and distributors who possessed a firearm, committed a crime of violence, or had prior convictions.”
Congress is expected to take up legislation relating to mandatory sentencing reform in the near future.
This story has been updated.