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Meet the Federal Prisoners About to be Released

A profile of the 6,000.

They are mostly black and Hispanic men. The average age is mid-30’s. Their drug of choice was cocaine (powder or crack) followed by methamphetamine. They are most likely to be returning to southern states (led by Texas.) Some have served more than 25 years.

This week we learned that at the end of October the Bureau of Prisons will release about 6,000 federal prisoners — and ultimately as many as 46,000 — who were convicted of drug offenses for which sentences have since been reduced. State and federal prisons release twice that number every week as inmates serve out their time, but 6,000 at once is an event — “the largest one-time federal release,” as The Washington Post put it.

So who are they?

The Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Sentencing Commission have not released the names of those being set free. But in August the Sentencing Commission, an independent judicial body that generated the new sentencing policy, published a detailed breakdown of the cases that had been decided (granted or denied) by July 24. It includes data on 17,446 applicants for early release, 13,187 of whom have been scheduled for freedom in coming months, including most or all of the first 6,000. The data include all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the Mariana Islands, which encompass Guam.

We have uploaded the full report, but here are some highlights:

Life Inside

Essays by people in prison and others who have experience with the criminal justice system

Race: The offenders granted sentence reductions were 24 percent white, 38 percent Hispanic and 34 percent black. This reflects the disproportionate racial makeup of the country’s 2.2 million incarcerated.

Home: More than half of those due for release were convicted in the South, 16 percent from Texas alone. Iowa, with less than one percent of the U.S. population, accounts for more than 6 percent of the released drug offenders, perhaps reflecting the surge of meth across the white Midwest.

Where Are They From?
NOT SHOWN: Washington D.C. (45), Puerto Rico (218) and the Mariana Islands (1)

Citizenship: Nearly a quarter of those to be released are non-citizens, most of whom face time in an immigrant detention facility, followed by deportation.

Drugs of choice: Seventy-nine percent of the cases involved either cocaine or methamphetamine. Nine percent were for marijuana, eight percent for heroin. Blacks made up 87 percent of the offenders convicted on crack cocaine charges. Hispanics accounted for 53 percent of the powder cocaine cases. Whites made up 49 percent of the meth offenders.

Released Inmates by Drug Conviction Type
NOTE: Of the 13,187 cases, information on drug type was missing in 229 cases.

Gender: About 7 percent of those released are women. (Fully half of them convicted of methamphetamine offenses.)

Time served: The average prisoner will have served nine years, reduced from nearly 11 years, a drop of 18 percent. Central Illinois had the biggest average percentage drop: 27 percent. That was followed by the middle district of North Carolina (24 percent), the middle district of Georgia (24 percent) and North Dakota (22 percent). Five of the offenders were sentenced in 1989.

Denials: Most denials were for technical reasons, but judges cited "protection of the public" 119 times when denying a sentence reduction. They blamed an inmate's behavior after sentencing or conviction for their denials 63 times.

Read the full report:

Released Inmates by State
1 Texas 2105
2 Florida 863
3 Iowa 730
4 Virginia 692
5 Illinois 660
6 California 571
7 Missouri 481
8 North Carolina 470
9 Georgia 424
10 Ohio 394
11 Pennsylvania 342
12 Arkansas 338
13 New York 336
14 South Carolina 329
15 Kansas 307
16 Alabama 283
17 West Virginia 258
18 Mississippi 240
19 Tennessee 230
20 Puerto Rico 218
21 Wisconsin 199
22 Oklahoma 198
23 Maryland 196
24 Kentucky 181
25 Indiana 150
26 Montana 147
27 Hawaii 141
28 Washington 135
29 Nebraska 128
30 Idaho 114
31 New Jersey 107
32 Utah 104
33 Minnesota 100
34 Maine 96
35 Connecticut 95
36 Louisiana 94
37 South Dakota 73
38 Wyoming 73
39 Alaska 68
40 Colorado 66
41 Massachusetts 65
42 Oregon 65
43 Michigan 62
44 Nevada 58
45 District of Columbia 45
46 Rhode Island 36
47 North Dakota 32
48 New Hampshire 28
49 New Mexico 24
50 Vermont 24
51 Delaware 10
52 Arizona 1
53 Mariana Islands 1