The chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees warned Wednesday that lower federal sentencing guidelines under President Obama are expected to lead to the early release of more than 10,000 federal inmates this year, and possibly tens of thousands of others in the next few years.
"This includes inmates with violent criminal histories, who have committed crimes involving assault, firearms, sodomy and even murder," Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told Attorney General Loretta Lynch in a letter.
The letter noted that in 2014, the U.S. Sentencing Commission issued a proposal to cut federal sentences for all drug trafficking and distribution offenses. At the time, Goodlatte and Grassley told the commission they were worried about how this decision would affect the safety of others when they are released.
"Unfortunately, our concerns were ignored ..." they wrote.
"It is our understanding that tens of thousands of federal inmates are eligible for early release as a result, and that the [Bureau of Prisons] inmate population will fall by more than 12,000 inmates by the end of fiscal year 2016," they wrote. "Overall, the Sentencing Commission has estimated that 46,376 prisoners are eligible for early release under Amendment 782 — with nearly 8,000 offenders eligible for immediate release on November 1, 2015."
To ensure Congress has an understanding about how these releases will affect public safety, the two lawmakers asked Lynch to tell Congress how many offenders are eligible, their names and aliases, a description of their offenses, and other information. They also asked for each offender's country of citizenship, and whether the government plans to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement about the release of non-U.S. citizens.
"As chairmen of the two congressional committees with oversight of the Department of Justice, it is imperative that we have a complete understanding of the impact the release of these drug traffickers will have on the public safety of our communities," they wrote Wednesday. "It is also important for us to know the impact that an inmate release of this magnitude will have on the federal prison system."
Read their letter here: