Via Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), an interesting memo from the U.S. Sentencing Commission, trying to calculate how much the government would save if it let people out of prison for having spent the amount of time there that newer and more sensible federal sentencing guidelines would normally impose for drug crimes.
If the courts were to grant the full reduction possible in each case [of applying newer standard sentences retroactively], the projected new average sentence for these offenders would be 102 months, a reduction of 23 months (or 18.4%). Based on this reduction, the estimated total savings to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) from the retroactive application of the 2014 drug guidelines amendment would be 83,525 bed years....
While the memo itself didn't translate that figure into cold hard cash money, the folks at Vox in writing about this memo concluded:
A "bed year" is the cost of incarcerating one prisoner for one year — which came out to a little under $29,000 during fiscal year 2011.
So that's a total savings of about $2.4 billion (albeit spread out over many years).
75 percent of those eligible for such sentence reduction are black or hispanic, by the way.
Jacob Sullum from earlier this month on "Why America Leads the World at Putting People in Cages."
Some disclosure: FAMM's founder Julie Stewart used to be my boss 23 years ago, and former Reason champ Mike Riggs now works for them.