U.S. To Expand Clemency Criteria for Drug Offender
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U.S. To Expand Clemency Criteria for Drug Offender
Posted by CN Staff on April 21, 2014 at 11:39:11 PT
By Julia Edwards
Source: Reuters
Washington, D.C. -- The U.S. Justice Department will widen the criteria it uses to decide which drug offenders to recommend to the president for clemency, Attorney General Eric Holder said on Monday.The department expects thousands of drug offenders currently serving time to be eligible for reduced sentences under the new clemency guidelines and it will prepare to review an influx of applications, Holder said in a video address.
Under U.S. law, the president can reduce sentences or pardon Americans serving sentences for federal crimes. The Justice Department will now recommend more candidates for the president's consideration.Details of the new criteria will be announced later this week by Deputy Attorney General James Cole.Holder hinted the guidelines may include applying a 2010 law that reduced sentences for crack cocaine offenders to those sentenced before the law was enacted."There are still too many people in federal prison who were sentenced under the old regime - and who, as a result, will have to spend far more time in prison than they would if sentenced today for exactly the same crime," Holder said in his address.Granting clemency to nonviolent drug offenders is part of the Obama administration's strategy to reduce spending on federal prisons by reducing the number of inmates serving time for nonviolent drug crimes.Last year, Holder launched the "Smart on Crime" initiative to review the criminal justice system and look for ways to make spending on prisons more efficient by focusing on violent offenders.Some Republicans in Congress say more lenient sentences would reverse the drop in crime the United States has seen over recent decades.In 2010, nearly half of 216,000 federal inmates were serving time for drug-related crimes, data from the Department of Justice shows.Reporting By Julia Edwards; Editing by Doina ChiacuSource: Reuters (Wire)Author: Julia EdwardsPublished: April 21, 2014Copyright: 2014 Thomson ReutersCannabisNews  Justice Archives 
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Comment #5 posted by runruff on April 22, 2014 at 11:08:54 PT
Great, great! Sooner than I predicted!
Now let's get busy printing those reparation checks. Chop, chop, let's move it, move it, move it!
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on April 21, 2014 at 14:36:02 PT
Oops Clickable Link
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on April 21, 2014 at 14:34:55 PT
Press Release From The Drug Policy Alliance
Obama Plans Clemency for "Hundreds, Perhaps Thousands" of People Sentenced for Drug Law ViolationsApril 21, 2014A White House official told Yahoo that President Obama is prepared to use his pardon power to grant clemency to “hundreds, perhaps thousands” of people who have been jailed for nonviolent drug crimes. The report said that the administration is making moves that will help it handle the increase in petitions that Mr. Obama is planning to sign off on before he leaves office. Last Tuesday, White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said Obama has directed the Justice Department to improve its clemency recommendation process and recruit more applications from people behind bars for drug law violations..The White House’s new moves would follow in the footsteps of a January announcement that the Obama administration would taking the unprecedented step of encouraging defense lawyers to suggest inmates whom the president might let out of prison early, as part of its effort to curtail severe penalties in low-level drug cases.In December, President Obama commuted the sentences of eight federal inmates convicted of non-violent drug offenses involving crack cocaine. Mr. Obama said the eight men and women had been sentenced under an “unfair system,” including the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses that was reduced to 18:1 by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.In the past year, Attorney General Eric Holder has made a number of forceful public statements against mass incarceration in the U.S., promising significant rollback of mandatory minimums and harsh sentencing guidelines. Yet, despite his administration’s declared support for substantive criminal justice reform, until now Obama has used his power to grant clemency less frequently than nearly all other U.S. Presidents.Mr. Obama has been under significant public pressure from advocacy groups and family members of people who are serving mandatory minimum drug sentences.“This would be a positive step toward righting the wrongs of our broken criminal justice system,” said Anthony Papa, Media Relations Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, who was granted clemency in New York State in 1997 after serving 12 years under the notorious Rockefeller Drug Laws. “I hope governors with the same power at the state level follow his lead and reunite more families.”“With half a million people still behind bars on non-violent drug charges, clearly thousands are deserving of a second chance. Congress should act immediately to reduce the draconian federal mandatory minimum sentences that condemn thousands to decades behind bars for non-violent drug offenses,” added Papa.The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has passed bipartisan sentencing reform legislation that would reduce the federal prison population, decrease racial disparities, save taxpayer money, and reunite nonviolent drug law offenders with their families sooner. The reforms are supported by a strange bedfellows group of senators, including Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Carl Levin (D-MI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
 The Smarter Sentencing Act is the biggest overhaul in federal drug sentencing in decades. It would:◾ Cut federal mandatory minimums for drug law violations, so that nonviolent offenders serve less time behind bars.◾ Make the reform to the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity that Congress passed in 2010 retroactive, so that thousands of people sentenced under the old draconian and racially unjust policy can leave prison early.◾ Expand the ability of judges to use their own discretion when sentencing defendants, so that judges can consider the unique facts of each case and each individual before them.According to today’s report, the Justice Department is planning to replace their pardon attorney, Ronald Rodgers, and is making other administrative moves to prepare for the expanded clemency process:“The scope of the new clemency initiative is so large that administration officials are preparing a series of personnel and process changes to help them manage the influx of petitions they expect Obama to approve. Among the changes is reforming the recently censured office within the Justice Department responsible for processing pardon petitions. Yahoo News has learned that the pardon attorney, Ronald Rodgers, who was criticized in a 2012 Internal watchdog report for mishandling a high-profile clemency petition, is likely to step down as part of that overhaul. Additional procedures for handling large numbers of clemency petitions could be announced as soon as this week, a senior administration official said, though it could take longer.”Contact: Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Anthony Papa 646-420-7290URL://
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on April 21, 2014 at 12:01:25 PT
News Article from NPR
Obama Seeks Wider Authority To Release Drug OffendersApril 21, 2014 Washington, D.C. -- Attorney General Eric Holder announced Monday that the Obama administration is formulating new rules that would give it, and the president, far more latitude to pardon or reduce the sentences of thousands of drug offenders serving long federal prison sentences.The move comes amid a broad national reconsideration of mandatory minimum sentences approved by Congress in 1986, when America's big cities were in the grip of a crack cocaine-fueled crime wave."The White House has indicated it wants to consider additional clemency applications, to restore a degree of justice, fairness, and proportionality for deserving individuals who do not pose a threat to public safety," Holder said in an online video statement released midday Monday."The Justice Department is committed to recommending as many qualified applicants as possible for reduced sentences," he said.In anticipation of a massive influx of applications from federal prisoners seeking clemency or a reduction in their drug-related prison terms, the Justice Department will create a team of lawyers with backgrounds in prosecution and defense, the administration says, to review the applications.Further detail about "expanded criteria" used to review the particular situations of drug offenders seeking relief through the program will be released later this week, according the department.The Justice Department has already held meetings with defense lawyers and interest groups in an effort to identify the cases of worthy prisoners who could qualify for clemency. The administration is looking at inmates who have "clean records, no significant ties to gangs or violence, and who are serving decades behind bars for relatively low-level offenses."The administration's move Monday comes four years after Obama signed the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, which was designed to reduce the disparity between sentencing rules for crack and powder cocaine. In a precursor to today's announcement, the president last December commuted the sentences of eight federal inmates serving long sentences — including six with life terms — for crack cocaine offenses.At the time, Obama said that the inmates had been sentenced under an "unfair system" that meted out far longer sentences for crack cocaine than powdered cocaine.If sentenced under the current, post-2010 sentencing law, he said, "many of them would have already served their time and paid their debt to society."Congress is currently discussing comprehensive, bipartisan legislation that would cut minimum sentences by half, give judges more sentencing discretion, and retroactively apply new crack cocaine sentencing standards to prisoners convicted under previous requirements.One bill, sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, would cut by half the five-, 10-, and 20-year minimums now required for first and second drug-sale offenses.Holder announced last August that the Justice Department would not pursue mandatory minimum sentences in cases involving low-level, nonviolent drug defendants. He followed with a set of guidelines for federal prosecutors.In announcing the effort Monday, Holder said that there "are still too many people in federal prison who were sentenced under the old regime — and who, as a result, will have to spend far more time in prison than they would if sentenced today for exactly the same crime.""This is simply not right," he said.Some federal prosecutors have pushed back on efforts to change mandatory sentencing laws, arguing that they believe they are an effective tool in wringing out information involving important drug kingpin cases or major murders.Copyright: 2014 NPRURL:
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on April 21, 2014 at 11:40:05 PT
Another Step
Another small step in the right direction.
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