On July 18th, the US Sentencing Commission elected to give 46,000 federal inmates serving excessive sentences for drug charges the ability to file motions for reduced sentences. The US Sentencing Commission in April voted unanimously that federal drug sentences were unfair and were excessive punishments. The Human Rights Watch had requested the Commission to make this change retroactive. Despite opposition, the amendment was passed.
The reductions are not automatic since the federal courts will have to consider each individual case upon its own merits. The courts can begin the process on November 1, 2014. The inmates who are given shorter sentences will not be released until November 1, 2015, in order for the probation department to have the time needed to review the motions and prepare for their monitoring upon release.
Unfortunately, this new course in fairer drug sentencing does not apply to inmates in state and local prisons. It is still a step in the right direction. The United States has more inmates and prisons than any other country although having only five percent of the worlds population. Too many of our prisons and jails are filled with inmates who have received excessive sentences for nonviolent charges. A substantial number of these unfair sentences involved nonviolent drug charges.
We can only hope that many of our states will also adopt this positive stance toward drug sentences. With this new attitude, the United States will have less inmates and an easing of our overcrowded prisons and jails.