With massive prisoner release, averting fatal reentry
The Huffington Post - 11/03/2015
This November marks the beginning of the largest prisoner release in this country’s history. Just over the first weekend, the federal prison system discharged over 6,000 inmates who saw their drug-related sentences reduced as a result of recent reforms. An estimated 40,000 additional federal prisoners will be eligible for early release in the coming months. This is just one part of a broader drive to slash senselessly-harsh sentences for drug crimes, reduce prison overcrowding, and generally move away from mass incarceration and the War on Drugs.
Although generally positive (and long overdue) for the inmates, their families, and the taxpayer, this monumental de-incarceration effort is also a source of grave risk. Few will be surprised to hear that the US is in the midst of an overdose crisis, but there is little recognition that re-entering individuals are nearly 130 times more likely to die of an overdose in the first two weeks after their release than the population as a whole. Multiple factors drive this astronomical risk, including low tolerance after a period of abstinence, use of drugs from unfamiliar sources and of unknown strength, mixing multiple substances, and the disorienting chaos inherent to the reentry process.