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"Hundreds, Perhaps Thousands" Could be Freed Under New Federal Clemency Rules

Attorney General Eric Holder announced Monday that the Justice Department will soon release new, more expansive criteria for recommending federal prisoner clemency applications for President Obama to review. That means Obama, who has so far freed a paltry 10 prisoners early in his first six years could free "hundred, perhaps thousands" in his final two, a senior administration official told Yahoo News Monday.

Most of those who will be eligible for clemency under the new criteria are doing time for drug offenses, a category that accounts for 50.1% of the federal prison population, or roughly 100,000 inmates. As the Justice Department noted in its press release, the move will be "an important step to reduce sentencing disparities for drug offenders in the federal prison system."

"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 a video message posted on the department's website. "The Justice Department is committed to recommending as many qualified applicants as possible for reduced sentences."

Later this week, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole is expected to announce more specific details about the expanded criteria the department will use and the logistical effort underway to ensure proper reviews of the anticipated wave of applications, the press release said.

President Obama has, midway through his second term, begun moving to use his clemency power. In December, he commuted the sentences of eight federal inmates convicted of nonviolent drug offenses involving crack cocaine. He 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 but not eliminated by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.

This latest move was foreshadowed by a January announcement that the administration was 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, and again last week, when White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said Obama has directed the Justice Department to improve its clemency recommendation process and recruit more applications from convicts.

Drug reform advocates greeted the announcement as a step in the right direction and as a signal to state governors -- most drug offenders are doing time on state, not federal, charges -- but also as a tail-end fix for a problem that needs front-end solutions.

"This would be a positive step toward righting the wrongs of our broken criminal justice system. I hope governors with the same power at the state level follow his lead and reunite more families," 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.

"With half a million people still behind bars on nonviolent 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.

It could do that by passing the Smarter Sentencing Act (Senate Bill 1410), which has already made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. But in the meantime, liberating some of the thousands of people currently imprisoned with harsh drug sentences is a move that can't come soon enough.

Washington, DC
United States
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Federal Prisoners

The best thing that they could do , would be to allow parole for Federal prisoners. Clear out the non-violent to make make room for the real criminals . Eliminate " Prison-for-Profit " . Focus on real crime instead of political agenda`s . Freedom and Democracy is currently upside down in this country .

Finally Obama takes action

This action is the most significant, boldest drug reform move President Obama has done since he came into office. He will garner a lot of criticism from social conservatives and law & order zealots. Foxnews is having a field day with it. Finally, Obama is acting like a second term president, who isn't running for re-election. He deserves a lot of credit for taking this action. I hope Phil includes some of the backlash the President is getting on this story. There's going to be a great deal from his adversaries.

Baby Steps Are Not Enough!

     Perhaps this Obama's 'most significant, boldest drug reform move' so far. Bold? Taken by itself, it is hardly significant, and rather timid! The Waste. When will our nation realize that it is in crisis; that it has far more pressing things that it could be spending its time and energy on? The utter waste of our parasitical, manipulative, bloated, hypocritical 'drug-war' is obscene. Drug addiction is a medical problem, not a 'moral problem'. This is a no-brainer. Instead, it has been made into a vile PRETEXT for countless outrages! The people who have been wrongfully imprisoned under this bogus system of global repression and harassment can take some comfort, perhaps, in not having to serve any more of the unjust and draconian sentences which they were handed. But these halting and minimal 'moves in the right direction' by Pres. Obama are yet more evidence of the guilt of the tactics and philosophy of Drug Prohibition. It has been running amok for many decades. Bold and significant? That would consist of clemency for the myriads of prisoners convicted of victimless 'drug crimes'. Perhaps he could do this as his last act in office, on his last day, just before the stroke of midnight. Now _that_ would be 'significant and bold'. Not to mention long, long overdue!

Interesting. I was charged

Interesting. I was charged with felonious delivery nearly 4 years ago. The crime is now a misdemeanor, and yet I still bear the burden of being labeled a felon. The irony is that I am actually more concerned with integrity than most non-felons that I meet. Breaking the law has always been a huge moral quandary for me and is only justified in the sense that the laws themselves are not actually legal (they require false assumptions for their foundation).

I wish

I'd like to say it would be nice if the American politicians who have seen the harm caused by America's harsh drug laws would tell Canada.I'd like to say that but they already tried and the Harper government went right ahead with it's mandatory minimums and continue to preach intolerance and prohibition.While it was America that spurned on the drug war and spread it's intolerant and prohibitive policies all over the planet.Most countries have woken up to the simple fact that you can't jail your way out of substance abuse.In fact the harsher the law the harder the criminals dealing them.Canada isn't the only intolerant country in drug policy.It's just sad that a country that once had more people in prison,per capita,than any other.Became a beacon of reason and harm reduction only to fall back into a hard line prohibitive policy.I hope Americans realise that drug reform,even though all the science points one way,can be dismantled and destroyed by one election of a born again evangelical zealot government that doesn't believe in science.You can't reason with an ideologue.Intolerance seems to find an audience easily while reason takes much longer to take root.Make sure once you have reason,you never drop your guard because the forces of intolerance are always there,waiting for an opening.

Legalize Cannabis Freedom !

Why cannabis is illegal ...

1) Some people have very little knowledge of the plant and are therefore irrationally scared of it.

2) They like to lock people up and have an easy reason to do so.

3) Evil people don't want the masses to have the medical benefits of cannabis and its cannabinoids and to be healthy.

4) Cannabis hemp provides an alternative via bio fuels, cannabis oils, and many other products therefore reducing the need for crude oil and creating competition to petroleum products.

5) Prohibition produces an underground monopoly on cannabis providing higher prices, bigger profits, and fewer competition to the cartels that sell it.

6) They like to scar people's records with misdemeanors and felonies trying to make life harder for people.

7) Prohibition provides big business for private prisons, lawyers, attorneys, police, judges, politicians, etc.

8) Medical marijuana programs create another form of monopoly by limiting freedom. Money made on doctor visits, cannabis cards, they only allow dispensaries in certain areas causing some people to travel long distances, and they only allow a select few to operate dispensaries. They make you pay a fee upfront to get a cannabis card and make you see a doctor and pay to renew it every year.

Evil people enforcing evil unjust laws.

Legalize Cannabis Freedom !

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