GREENVILLE, PITT COUNTY -

More prisoners serving time in federal prison for non-violent crimes now have a better chance of getting out early.

On Wednesday, the Department of Justice announced their new plan for clemency. It is expected that thousands of prisoners will now be applying for early release. Many of them are expected to be serving time for drug-related offenses.

Though the plan only applies to inmates in federal prisons, officials believe the effects could be felt in ENC.

"There's certainly the increased chance of more crime locally," said Pitt County Assistant District Attorney Chris Johnson. "The drug trade goes hand in hand with violence, especially firearms."

Inmates hoping for early release would have to meet a certain set of criteria. They would have to be low-level inmates, without a long criminal past, who have been in jail for at least ten years, with no violent history before or during their time in prison.

"People know how to play the system, you know, and now they're going to turn around and release them back out on the street and we're going to have to deal with them again," said Pitt County Sheriff Neil Elks. "They supply a lot of drugs and poison to our kids on the street, so that would be a great concern of mine."

However, many people living in crime-ridden areas in Greenville think the new clemency plan is a good idea.

"I believe they learned their lesson while they were in there," said Marian Dixon, of Greenville.

Many people we spoke to say they know many people who went to prison for drugs, then were released and have led a positive lifestyle.

"Yeah I know quite a few people, but I know quite a few people who made a negative change and just went back out here to doing the same thing. Change starts within yourself," said Greenville's Jackielis Moore.

Most of those who become eligible are expected to have been sentenced before the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. Prior to the Fair Sentencing Act, people convicted of crack-cocaine related crimes received higher sentences than those convicted of powdered cocaine related crimes. To become eligible, the inmate must be serving a sentence that would likely be shorter if they were convicted today.

Officials with the Federal Bureau of Prisons say the President has final say on who is granted clemency. There are currently over 216,000 inmates in federal prisons.