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Justice Dept. Wants More Drug Clemency Applicants

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #820)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

In an unusual move, the Obama administration Thursday told defense lawyers they should suggest more inmates serving time on drug charges who might be deserving of clemency.

That would be a dramatic expansion of the Obama administration's use of the pardon and clemency power to free low-level non-violent drug offenders. At year's end, Obama pardoned eight long-serving crack cocaine offenders.

In a speech to the New York State Bar Association, Deputy Attorney General James Cole told attendees that the Justice Department wanted more names to forward to the White House -- and that the defense bar could be of assistance.

"This is where you can help," he said. "You each can play a critical role in this process by providing a qualified petitioner -- one who has a clean record in prison, does not present a threat to public safety, and who is facing a life or near-life sentence that is excessive under current law -- with the opportunity to get a fresh start."

Cole said that despite moves to reduce the number of low-level non-violent drug offenders in federal prisons, many remain, serving long sentences they would not be receiving in the wake of the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act and recent Justice Department directives to seek lower drug sentences.

"This is not fair, and it harms our criminal justice system," said Cole. "To help correct this, we need to identify these individuals and get well-prepared petitions into the Department of Justice."

The Justice Department is seeking to identify prisoners in circumstances similar to those of the eight who were granted clemency so it can recommend them for clemency as well, he said. The federal Bureau of Prisons will also begin advising inmates of the opportunity to apply, he said.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Uncle Bob (not verified)

Could things really change?  Seems like more is happening than we'd dared hope for.. what about the recent 20 year sentences for some medical marijuana operators as well?  That Sandusky guy (not the child molester, the MMJ dispensary owner)  and others, probably many others.  But yes these people who were handed ungodly sentences for crack should be first on the list, after all, they've already been left in there for decades unjustly.  It's heinous. 

Fri, 01/31/2014 - 1:27am Permalink
Valient (not verified)

Wasn't the President already petitioned for the clemency of multiple medical marijuana growers who were nonviolent taxpaying citizens whose only crime was legally complying to their state laws regarding cannabis, and he completely ignored them? I'm sorry, but more and more it looks like they're trying to make this into a race issue when it's a human rights issue.

Fri, 01/31/2014 - 2:43pm Permalink
Tony Nenninger… (not verified)

I represent Jeff Mizanskey in his bid for executive clemency to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to commute his life without parole sentence for a series of marijuana only felonies.  You can learn the details of how you can help on the "Justice for Jeff" link on the website.  There is also detailed information about 5 federal prisoners doing life without parole for marijuana only offenses who have a petition for clemency pending before President Obama--and info about the handful of other life without parole nonviolent marijuana offenders around the country at  Jeff and the other life without parole prisoners need your publicity on the internet and mass media, letters/calls/emails to Governor Nixon/President Obama/other governors, monetary donations, and personal letters to the prisoners of this unholy war.

We all should be mindful of the plight of these prisoners when we put forth initiative petitions to legalize marijuana and include provisions for the retroactive reduction of their punishments and expungement and destruction of their marijuana related offenses from public records.  It would not be fair for those citizens who were never convicted of marijuana offenses to enjoy liberation from marijuana prohibition while those being held in prisons for long periods because of marijuana offenses are forgotten.


Tony Nenninger, Attorney at Law

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 2:04pm Permalink

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