Nearly 2 1/2 years after then-Attorney General Eric Holder laid out his “Smart on Crime” plan to the American Bar Association, the campaign has had mixed results, the Washington Post reports. Last year, federal prosecutors pursued mandatory minimum sentences at the lowest rate on record, and sentencing reform legislation with bipartisan support has been introduced in Congress. Some prosecutors are continuing to resist changes to mandatory minimum sentencing. The initiative has not made a significant dent in the number of inmates crowded into federal prisons. Only 25 of the 531 elderly inmates who have applied for compassionate release under the new policy have received it.
In the key executive action that Obama can take to undo unfair sentences, he has only granted clemency to 89 inmates of the thousands of federal drug offenders who have applied. The president is expected to grant clemency to about another 100 prisoners in the coming weeks. Holder initially thought that as many as 10,000 of the federal prison's nearly 200,000 inmates “were potentially going to be released” under the new clemency initiative. Other Justice officials say the number is closer to 1,000 or 2,000. Reform advocates criticize the president for moving too slowly and are calling on him to speed up the clemency process before his administration runs out of time. “Given the president's repeated concern about the numbers of people in prison serving excessive sentences, he has done little to alleviate the problem through clemency,” said Julie Stewart of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. “The president has all the constitutional authority he needs to do the right thing. Failure here cannot be blamed on partisanship in Congress. If the president wants to correct past injustices, he can.”