Panel to vote on early release for drug felons

FILE - This July 14, 2014 file photo shows Attorney General Eric Holder speaking at the Justice Department in Washington. Tens of thousands of federal inmates serving time for drug crimes would be eligible for early release under a proposal being considered Friday that would dramatically reduce the nation's prison population over time. The change is part of a broader rethinking of criminal justice policy that the Justice Department, under Holder, has embraced. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Tens of thousands of federal drug inmates may be eligible for early release under a proposal adopted by the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

The panel voted unanimously Friday to make sentencing guideline changes approved earlier this year retroactive to apply to many inmates who are currently in prison.

The commission says more than 46,000 inmates could benefit, with an average sentence of reduction of 25 months. The change would cover defendants sentenced for all drug types, including cocaine and methamphetamine.

The commission is an independent panel that sets sentencing policy. The earliest a prisoner could be released is in November 2015.

Prisoner advocacy groups support the proposal, while some judges and federal prosecutors are opposed.