Thousands of federal prisoners to be released this weekend, incl - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Thousands of federal prisoners to be released this weekend, including some with local ties

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

Thousands of federal inmates serving sentences for drug crimes are set for early release this weekend under a cost-cutting measure intended to reduce the nation's prison population.
    
The Justice Department said Wednesday that more than 4,300 inmates are set to go free on or around Nov. 1, the first of what will likely be tens of thousands benefiting from changes approved last year by the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

Channel 3 Eyewitness News Investigative Producer Beth Burger obtained documents that show more than 60 of those inmates are serving time for crimes committed in the Chattanooga area.

Chattanooga attorney Robin Flores says most of these drug offenders aren't violent. He says harsh sentencing are to blame for bogging down the prison system.

"You're putting people out who otherwise don't have any criminal or violent histories," said attorney Robin Flores. "You want to have the worst of the worst locked up. The ones that show time and time again, or just from a horrific case that they are threats to society and the community."

Flores has at least one former client on the list of inmates near freedom. Alfredo Diaz-Figueroa was sentenced to a little more than 11 years in prison for possession 500 grams of meth with intent to sell. His former client is not a U.S. citizen. He's one of more than 1,700 inmate set for release that are not U.S. citizens and will turned over to immigration officials for possible deportation.

"By getting released now, it looks like he's getting in essence 7 years shaved off. It looks like he's going to get deported," he said. "If they're trying to empty out a prison, what better way than to reduce the sentence of a guy whose already going to be deported?"

About 80 percent of the affected inmates are already out of prison, living in halfway houses or home confinement.
    
The changes are part of a bipartisan effort to rethink decades-long sentences for drug offenders, who are roughly half the federal prison population.

According to alec.org, it costs almost $25,000 a year to house a federal inmate in Tennessee.

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