CLT influx expected as largest prisoner release nears

Friday will mark the largest prisoner release in history, with more than 150 prisoners being released into the Charlotte area.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Friday will mark the biggest one-time release of federal prisoners ever, which is meant to make room in overcrowded prisons and NBC Charlotte found that more of these prisoners are coming to Charlotte than almost anywhere else in the country.

Frank Johns has been the clerk of the U.S. District Court in Charlotte since the early 1990's and what's happening Friday even has him worried.

"I'm very concerned for community safety, security, and all the agencies that normally support an inmate upon release to be able to handle such a large number at one time," Johns said.

Normally, 10 to 15 prisoners are released in the Charlotte area in a month. They work with probation officers on housing, counseling, and job placement.

But on Friday, more than 150 prisoners will come to Charlotte, without having any pre-release help whatsoever.

"They're basically just opening the doors and wishing them luck," said Johns.

A total of 6,000 prisoners are being released across the country—drug offenders who were handed sentences deemed too harsh by the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

"How is this actually going to work then on Friday? It's going to be interesting. Our local federal probation officer has pulled every officer off the street to be available that day," said Marcus Philemon.

Philemon runs Courtwatch, a citizens group that tracks repeat offenders in Mecklenburg County.

"I'm a concerned citizen," Philemon said.

The fear felt by many in the community is normal when it comes to drug offenders.

"Being involved in the drug world involves firearms and other deadly force," explained Johns.

Philemon's group and the feds will be tracking the released prisoners. Typically, about 30-percent end up back in prison. Johns worries that those numbers could skyrocket following Friday's release.

"I'd be very surprised if we maintain that, simply because there's no support as there is traditionally to help them stay out of prison," Johns said.

NBC Charlotte checked with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, who say this is on their radar as well, especially knowing these prisoners are being released into our community. They say they will be keeping an eye on all of the released prisoners.

An additional 100 prisoners will be released to South Carolina.


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