Thousands Of Drug Inmates Set For Release

An Associated Press review shows drug criminals once described by prosecutors as unrepentant repeat offenders are among those benefiting from new sentencing guidelines that are easing punishments for thousands of federal prisoners.

Many defendants cleared for early release starting this fall fit a more sympathetic profile: small-time dealers targeted by a draconian approach to drug enforcement.

But an analysis of roughly 100 court cases identified defendants who carried semi-automatic weapons, had past convictions for crimes including robbery, and had other troubling backgrounds.

Supporters say there’s no evidence that lengthier punishments protect public safety. Studies also show prisoners released early aren’t more likely to commit new offenses than those who serve their entire sentence. But the broad spectrum of defendants underscores the complex decisions involved in updating the drug sentencing structure.