Drug War

U.S. Sentencing Commission Pinpoints Billions in Savings in Retroactive Mercy to Those in Prison for Mandatory Minimum Drug Crimes


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.

Key excerpts:

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.

NEXT: Yes, Government Law Enforcement Keeps Screwing the Poor

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  1. Nothing left to cut.

    1. The prison cells are bare.

      1. Criminals on the STREETS! Some smoking that evil weed!

  2. There’s also the economic gain from having these people out in the workforce as opposed to languishing in prison.

    1. Well, if they can get jobs, anyway. Most places are leery of hiring ex-cons.

      1. True, but that’s only the legit economy. The grey and black markets don’t adhere to those rules!

        1. Unfortunately, the black market at least is simply liable to end with them back in prison, and the grey market can end the same way, depending on the terms of their parole.

      2. Wasteland Wanderer|5.30.14 @ 7:53PM|#
        “Well, if they can get jobs, anyway. Most places are leery of hiring ex-cons.”

        On the West Coast, the cons end up in low-paying construction jobs; roofer, the guys who clean out the porta-potties, that sort of thing.
        Yeah, it stinks, but if you want to stay straight, there is a chance. And somebody manages those companies and also owns them.

      3. I have a felony from 98 for selling weed (I handed a guy a bag who was a rat trying to get himself out of trouble.) I was 19, I’m 35 now, today actually.

        Anyway, I learned that sales was pretty much the only field that didnt care too much. That was until I started working in bars and restaurants. Started as a bar back. Now I manage a pretty well known spot in Brooklyn. And the hope is to have my own spot eventually.

        My point is that, yes, felons are behind the 8 ball. For sure. But not all hope is lost.

        1. ^+1 perseverance

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