Attorney General Eric Holder discussed the issue at an event Tuesday.
The change would apply to prisoners without “significant” criminal histories, and whose crimes didn’t involve weapons or violence.
The department estimates the change would benefit up to 9% of the federal prison population of nearly 217,000.
Not all prisoners who applied for the reduced sentences would receive them. The proposal is part of Holder’s “Smart On Crime” efforts.
The Attorney General wants to reduce the prison population and loosen mandatory sentencing rules for non-violent drug crimes.
He often cites data showing that with only 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. has nearly a quarter of the planet’s prisoners.