Shift in federal sentencing rules spurs release of 17 Mass. inmates
BOSTON >> A total of 17 federal prisoners in the Massachusetts district were released early this week, part of a wave of around 6,000 inmates nationwide who became eligible for early release after the U.S. Sentencing Commission revised its guidelines for drug trafficking offenses.
The sentencing commission last year made changes to how the government sentences drug offenders and voted to apply those changes retroactively, but delayed the release of any inmates until Nov. 1 of this year.
Sentencing judges in the Massachusetts district granted 97 motions for reduced sentences, according to Chief Probation Officer Christopher Maloney. A total of 40 applicants were eligible for the Nov. 1 release, but 23 had immigration detainers.
"The Probation Office is doing everything it can to make sure that the released offenders are provided with the services they need to succeed on supervised release and live law-abiding, addiction-free lives," District of Massachusetts Chief Judge Patti Saris said in a statement.
Saris said that probation officers will closely monitor the newly released offenders, and that four probation officers were hired in the last year to handle the extra workload.
The 97 Massachusetts district federal prisoners who saw their sentences reduced were incarcerated for a variety of drug trafficking offenses, 54 of which involved cocaine and crack. Of the rest, 26 were heroin-related, eight involved marijuana, and three were tied to oxycodone. The remaining six involved other drugs.
Requests for release in Massachusetts were reviewed by a team consisting of the prosecution and defense attorneys and the probation office, which studied the defendant's history and prison disciplinary record. Under the sentencing commission's amendment, no one who applied for early release can receive it unless the sentencing judge finds them to be eligible and not a public safety risk.
The 17 prisoners who were released on Nov. 1 have been directed to attend a resources fair being held by the District Court of Massachusetts Wednesday morning at the John J. Moakley Federal Courthouse, where they are set to hear an address from Saris and Maloney. Nearly 20 social service agencies have agreed to participate in the fair, according an announcement from the district court clerk.
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