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Prison Terms Shortened For Some Federal Drug Offenders In Northwest

Thomas Hawk
Flickr -

Thousands of federal inmates were sent home Friday after their drug sentences were shortened. That includes dozens of convicts from the Northwest.

But if you've got a picture in your mind of rejoicing inmates streaming out the front door of a federal prison, that's not what happened in most cases. The great majority of the affected drug convicts from the Northwest were previously moved from prison to a halfway house or home detention.

Now they can go free, but may have to check in periodically with a probation officer.

This is a result of a vote last year by the U.S. Sentencing Commission to ease prison overcrowding and adjust very long federal prison terms for some drug traffickers.

Nearly half of those receiving sentence reductions dealt cocaine, with the rest caught with meth, marijuana, heroin or other drugs. Inmates from Idaho, Oregon and Washington state had an average of 1.5 to 2 years lopped off of roughly 10 year sentences.

The unusual mass release of federal drug inmates totaled more than 6,100 people nationwide. Of those, about 1,700 are foreign citizens who will be deported. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons said among the inmates are 42 residents of Washington, 24 Idahoans and 16 from Oregon.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.