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Federal criminal sentencing adjustments beginning to be realized

The revised thinking regarding criminal sentencing of many inmates across the country that is now being realized in a broadly bipartisan way on Capitol Hill is beginning to yield practical and real-world effects in some states.

North Carolina is one of them.

A state media outlet reported recently that more than 200 North Carolina prisoners will be released from confinement early, possibly being set free next month, following their convictions and incarceration for drug-related offenses.

Nationally, approximately 6,000 individuals behind bars are slated to be released.

At one time, such a development would have been widely regarded as anathema by many millions of Americans across the country.

The once-prevalent mindset fueled by the desire to simply lock up convicted offenders -- even low-level and nonviolent individuals facing the criminal justice system for the first time -- for as long as possible has greatly waned in recent years, though, being materially influenced by several factors.

One of them relates to cost. The so-called War on Drugs has drained huge resources from state and federal coffers that are applied to prison construction, maintenance and inmates' needs.

Another factor is the growing perception of many Americans that federal criminal sentencing is in many instances arbitrary and mean-spirited, and that it leads to unfair outcomes. Mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines in particular are being progressively excoriated by critics.

The above-cited media article sums up a new attitude regarding sentencing that is now seemingly prevalent across much of the United States, namely, that the punish-first and punish-hard policies centrally marking the War on Drugs are "now condemned by many as overly harsh and expensive."

One projection for upcoming years posits that as many as 40,000 federal prisoners could be slated for early release.

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