Local sheriffs across America are voicing concern for the safety of the citizens they’ve sworn to protect after the biggest one-time release of federal inmates in U.S. history — though advocates of criminal justice reform maintain the release is being handled responsibly.
The 6,112 inmates were released from federal prison at the beginning of November in response to a decision by the U.S. Sentencing Commission to reduce sentences for most drug trafficking offenses and apply them retroactively. It coincides with a broader and bipartisan push for rethinking federal sentencing.
But the mass release raises immediate practical questions about how the ex-inmates can adjust.
“There’s no transition here, there’s no safety net. This is the biggest sham they are trying to sell the American people,” Sheriff Paul Babeu of Arizona’s Pinal County told FoxNews.com.
“On average these criminals have been in federal prison for nine years — you don’t have to be a sheriff to realize that a felon after nine years in jail isn’t going to be adding value to the community. A third are illegals and felons so they can’t work. What do we think they are going to do?” said Babeu, also a congressional candidate.
The government is in fact trying to guide the transition for many. The Justice Department says 77 percent of exiting inmates are already in half-way houses or home confinement.
But local law enforcement officers have deep reservations, as the initiative ramps up quickly.
The November inmates are the first of approximately 46,000 who may have their cases reviewed. Of those released in the first round, the Department of Justice says 1,764 were to be turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for deportation proceedings.
Sheriffs on the border front-lines were skeptical of the deportation claim.
“The promise is they’re going to be turned over to ICE and deported. Anyone who thinks there’s any likelihood of them leaving the U.S. … think again,” Babeu said, before saying the president should be held responsible for any crimes committed by those released.
Other sheriffs also challenged the claim that those being released are not a risk to communities.
Read more: Fox News