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Thousands of inmates to be released from federal prisons

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- By the end of the month, there could be thousands of former prisoners returning home.

Roughly 6,000 inmates are scheduled to be released from federal prisons. That's the most in the Bureau of Prisons history.

The move is supposed to help reduce prison overcrowding and provide relief to prisoners serving long sentences.

The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 reduced the disparity between sentencing for crack cocaine possession versus powder cocaine. The sentences for thousands of men and women would've been much shorter if they were handed down today.

"It saves the taxpayers money by clearing out $30,000 a year to keep a prisoner. It puts them back with their families, and there's nothing to show there's a likelihood of recidivism," said Congressman Steve Cohen, who supports the change.

He said it not only saves the U.S. as much as $2.8 billion a year, but it's also morally the right thing to do.

"They're all nonviolent drug offenders, and they all have already served a sentence that they would've served if they were sentenced under the laws that exist in the country today."

About one-third of the inmates to be released aren't U.S. citizens and will be deported. Others will go to halfway houses or be monitored in other ways.

"My biggest question is what do we have in place and who are the people in place, and are they properly trained?" said Karen Morgan, an alcohol and drug abuse counselor who works at Addiction Campuses.

Morgan said while the release seems like a good idea, it's important they get the help needed.

Congressman Cohen said it's also important the former convicts have the skills to get back into society.

"They need to have job training and some counseling to make sure they're on the straight and narrow when they get out," explained Cohen.

Right now it's not clear what prisons the inmates will be released from. Cohen said they will likely be from all across the county.

The government is set to begin releasing them October 30 through November 2.

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