Chaos because 6,000 non-violent drug offenders were released at once from federal prisons? Well, that’s probably a bit extreme considering over 10,000 inmates are already being released back into society each month. That’s over 650,000 former offenders each year who return to walk and talk and work and mingle among us. The horror of it all, right?
Some of that horror is totally justified, and how so you ask? For starters, nearly two-thirds of of those 650,000 former prisoners are rearrested within three years of their release. I know, chances of finding jobs, housing, and education for those folks are slim or none. Still, according to Justice Department stats, 4,000 of the 6,000 newly released federal inmates will most likely wind up back in prison. By the way, this 6,000 is in addition to the 69 men and women granted clemency by the president.
But, 6,000 is not the final total. The Sentencing Commission estimates a second round of releases to take place in the fall of 2016 will set free nearly 9,000 additional federal prisoners.
Police officials are extremely concerned, and most likely at least some of their fears are justified. There are no real programs in place to handle the sudden release of so many prisoners. There’s a significant lack of housing opportunities, job training, and a near absence of medical treatment, including mental health care and access to needed medications. Basically, there is no real safety net in place to catch these people when they fall, and the odds are so heavily stacked against convicted felons that a tumble for most is practically inevitible.
The additional number of inmates is expected to further burden strained probation departments. Officers who supervise the inmates on probation can barely handle the caseloads that are already dumped in their laps by the handfuls (prisoners are typically released under the supervision of a probation officer unless a court order states otherwise). Likewise, police officers will bear the brunt of dealing with those who choose to return to a criminal lifestyle. Add these new crimes and criminals to those already on the streets and, well, there’s just not enough officers to go around. And that’s the concern of many chiefs and sheriffs.
Let’s revisit the opening line of this article. Will this mass release of prisoners cause chaos in our streets? It’s doubtful that the average citizen will notice the effects. Well, unless they happen to be on the receiving end of the B&E’s, robberies, car thefts, etc. committed by the newly-released as they embark on their journeys back through the current catch and release system.
But chaos? Honestly, I can’t imagine things will be any different than what we’re already seeing on the evening news and across various social media sources. If that’s chaos, then it is what it is and will be what it will be. Besides, the situation—prison overcrowding, mass releases, mandatory minimums, etc.—should certainly be of more concern to citizens than, well, #It’sJustACup. But that’s just my opinion, something I rarely offer on this site.
Investigator G. Nome decides that current clues are not related to the true meaning of Christmas, so he moves on.