As part of a new initiative, President Obama plans to dramatically increase the number of drug offenders he considers for clemency.
According to White House spokesman Jay Carney, the president has requested that the Justice Department set up a process to ensure that anyone who has a good case for commutation has their application evaluated.
In a video message released Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department will soon detail new, more expansive criteria that the department will use in considering when to recommend clemency applications for Mr. Obama’s review.
“Once these reforms go into effect, we expect to receive thousands of additional applications for clemency,” Holder said, noting that the DOJ will assign potentially dozens of lawyers to review clemency applications. “As a society, we pay much too high a price whenever our system fails to deliver the just outcomes necessary to deter and punish crime, to keep us safe, and to ensure that those who have paid their debts have a chance to become productive citizens.”
By the end of his second term, the president could pardon hundreds or even thousands of nonviolent drug offenders, according a a Yahoo news report. Mr. Obama granted very few pardons in his first five years in office, with the number capping at 52 of the 1,600 pardon requests he’s received and just nine out of 10,000 commutation requests to reduce a sentence.
The changes are part of a broader push by the administration and bipartisan lawmakers to reform unfair sentencing laws and cut the Justice Department’s increasing prison spending. Currently, half a million people are serving time in prison for drug-related offenses.
At least 3,278 prisoners are serving life sentences without parole for nonviolent drug and property crimes.
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