As we began discussing in the previous post, the U.S. Department of Justice has announced a new clemency initiative aimed at releasing certain inmates from federal prison who were unfairly sentenced under unfair drug laws.
The Obama Administration’s initiative, which evolved with the help of criminal defense and nonprofit lawyers, has been unveiled as a way to correct wrongs of the past while improving the public’s opinion of the criminal justice system.
President Obama is afforded the right to grant pardons by the U.S. Constitution, and the New York Times reports that this initiative — dubbed Clemency Project 2014 — could result in the most significant use of presidential pardon power in four decades.
Federal inmates who have served more than 10 years in prison on a sentence that would be shorter if they were sentenced today may be eligible for a commutation. Many of these individuals will have drug convictions, but some other types of crimes may also qualify.
Other qualification requirements include:
- low-level, nonviolent offender
- demonstration of good conduct while in prison
- no ties to gangs or other criminal organizations
- lacks significant criminal history
- no history of violence before, during or after prison
This is a step in the right direction for the U.S. criminal justice system that will hopefully result in thousands of Americans who were unfairly sentenced being reunited with their families and communities.
For more information on how state or federal drug laws have changed in recent years and whether or not you or someone you love may qualify for clemency, speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your area.
Source: New York Times, “Reviving Clemency, Serving Justice,” editorial, April 23, 2014