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Press Release

Local officials prepared to transition inmates back into Northern West Virginia communities

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of West Virginia

WHEELING, WEST VIRGINIA – Beginning November 2, 44 federal inmates will return to the Northern District of West Virginia pursuant to the United States Sentencing Commission’s decision to modify the sentencing guidelines for certain federal drug offenses, United States Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld, II, and Chief U.S. Probation Officer Terry L. Huffman announced.

In 2014, after receiving nearly 80,000 public comments and holding two public hearings, the United States Sentencing Commission voted unanimously to modify the sentences of certain federal drug offenders. Congress then considered the Sentencing Commission’s recommendation and did not vote to disapprove the sentencing change. The change became effective November 1, 2014. The Commission allotted one calendar year for courts and the Bureau of Prisons to prepare for the releases.

“Some current Bureau of Prisons inmates are scheduled for an early release beginning November 2.  As we always do, we have notified area law enforcement agencies about the release of these individuals. We have also entered their names into a national database to ensure that law enforcement everywhere will know that these individuals are under supervised release,” noted Huffman. “While the number of inmates returning nationwide is large, here in the Northern District of West Virginia the number of releases is very manageable. This has been an issue where we have had adequate notice.  We have had over a year to prepare for these inmates being released, and we are prepared to monitor them once they are released.”

Approximately 68% of inmates returning to Northern West Virginia have already been placed under supervision in halfway houses (43%) or home confinement (25%). Approximately 26% of inmates returning to Northern West Virginia will be released from prison. Additional inmates currently incarcerated within the Northern District of West Virginia may be released to other districts or to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for potential deportation. The Bureau of Prisons and United States Probation and Pretrial Services have collaborated to ensure that all released inmates receive proper supervision and reentry services.

“The Bureau of Prisons has extensive experience in successfully transitioning inmates back into society,” noted Ihlenfeld. “We are confident the upcoming release will have a minimal impact upon the communities in Northern West Virginia. We are not anticipating a large influx of prisoners released into our district and those inmates that are released will be closely supervised as they transition back into our neighborhoods. ”

The sentencing reductions are not automatic. Federal judges must carefully consider public safety and have the discretion to approve or deny the reduction of a particular inmate’s sentence. As of July 2015, judges had denied approximately 25% of petitions received across the country. Many of the federal drug offenders will serve substantial prison sentences before they are eligible for release.

The United States Sentencing Commission is an independent agency in the judicial branch composed of seven voting and two non-voting members.  Its principal purpose is to establish sentencing policies and practices for the federal criminal justice system that will assure the ends of justice by promulgating detailed guidelines prescribing the appropriate sentences for offenders convicted of federal crimes.

Updated January 8, 2016