“both incarcerated people and staff at grave risk… Large-scale releases have been common throughout U.S. and international history for a variety of legal, political and health reasons.”
Of the many examples they cite from throughout U.S. history and from around the world, here are three:
Florida (1963 – 1965)
On the heels of the Supreme Court’s Gideon v. Wainwright decision, Florida had to give thousands of incarcerated people new trials, this time with court-appointed lawyers. For some people, the evidence was too flimsy or dated to withstand a proper legal defense, so over 1,000 people were released in a very short time period.
Illinois (1980 – 1983)
Concerned that the 1978 legislative switch to “determinate” sentencing would lead to prison overcrowding, the Department of Corrections instituted a special program of the parole board awarding extra good time credits. In sum, over 21,000 people, or 60% of all prison releases, were released an average of 105 days early.
Italy (2006 and 1990)
In 2006, to respond to prison overcrowding, the Italian government released 22,000 people, generally those serving three years or less, except for those convicted of Mafia-related crimes, terrorism, sexual violence or usury. An earlier mass pardon in 1990 released 8,451 people out of the total incarcerated population of 26,000.