Obama May Grant Clemency To Thousands Serving U.S. Drug Sentences


The Obama administration is beginning an aggressive effort to consider clemency requests from possibly thousands of federal inmates serving time for drug offenses, the Washington Post reports. The initiative, an unprecedented campaign to free non­violent offenders, will begin immediately and continue for two years. The Justice Department expects to reassign dozens of lawyers to its understaffed pardons office to handle requests from inmates. “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,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “The Justice Department is committed to recommending as many qualified applicants as possible for reduced sentences.”

On April 10, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to revise its guidelines to reduce sentences for defendants in most of the nation's drug cases. In the meantime, thousands of inmates are still serving federally mandated sentences that imposed strict penalties for the possession of crack cocaine. “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. “This is simply not right.”

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