U.S. to release 6,000 inmates over a few days It's part of an effort to ease overcrowding and roll back the harsh penalties given to nonviolent drug dealers. Share on Facebook Mark Boster / TNS Roughly 6,000 U.S. inmates are to be released from federal prison as part of an effort to ease overcrowding and roll back the harsh penalties given to nonviolent drug dealers in the 1980s and ’90s, according to federal law enforcement officials. By: MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT The New York Times, Published on Tue Oct 06 2015 WASHINGTON—The U.S. Justice Department is preparing to release roughly 6,000 inmates from federal prison as part of an effort to ease overcrowding and roll back the harsh penalties given to nonviolent drug dealers in the 1980s and ’90s, according to federal law enforcement officials. The release is scheduled to occur from Oct. 30 to Nov. 2, and will be one of the largest one-time discharges of inmates from federal prisons in American history, said the officials. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing matters that had not been publicly announced by the Justice Department. The Bureau of Prisons is arranging for many of the inmates to initially move into halfway houses, one official said. In April, the U.S. Sentencing Commission created guidelines that reduced the penalties for many nonviolent drug crimes and made some of those changes retroactive. At the time, officials said the move applied to at least 50,000 federal inmates sentenced under the previous guidelines. The new guidelines were issued amid increasing support for an overhaul of sentencing. The U.S. has a quarter of the world’s prison population. Both Republicans and Democrats agree that prison spending, which accounts for a third of the Justice Department’s budget, needs to be reduced. News of the prison release was first reported by the Washington Post. On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are considering other ways to scale back the numbers of people who are facing lengthy stays in federal prison because of nonviolent drug crimes. Last week a bipartisan group of powerful senators proposed a broad overhaul of the existing system for imposing mandatory minimum sentences. Those changes are being urged on by President Barack Obama and a coalition of activist groups that range from the far right to the far left. The changes would be retroactive if the legislation is enacted, and lawmakers estimated that up to 6,500 prisoners — many of them charged with offences related to crack cocaine — could qualify for resentencing under the changes.