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Bridget Johnson

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April 23, 2014 - 8:44 am
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The Justice Department this morning announced a new initiative “to encourage qualified federal inmates to petition to have their sentences commuted or reduced by the president of the United States.”

Deputy Attorney General James Cole said in a news conference that the latest effort is part of Attorney General Eric Holder’s “Smart on Crime” initiative, which “was conceived with an eye towards addressing the crisis caused by a vastly overcrowded prison population, and with a goal of redirecting some of the dollars we spend on prisons to prosecutors and law enforcement agents working to keep our streets safer.”

“The fundamental American concept, equal justice under law, requires that our laws be enforced fairly, and not just going forward. It is equally important that we extend this fairness to those who are already serving prison sentences for their crimes,” Cole said.

He noted that last December President Obama commuted the sentences of eight men and women who had each served more than 15 years in prison for crack cocaine offenses under mandatory sentencing guidelines.

“Since that time, the president has indicated that he wants to be able to consider additional, similar applications for commutation of sentence, to restore a degree of fairness and proportionality for deserving individuals,” Cole added. “The department is committed to responding to the president’s directive by finding additional candidates who are similarly situated to those granted clemency last year, and recommending qualified applicants for reduced sentences.”

“We are launching this clemency initiative in order to quickly and effectively identify appropriate candidates. Candidates who have a clean prison record do not present a threat to public safety and were sentenced under out-of-date laws that have since been changed and are no longer seen as appropriate.”

The initiative is not limited to crack laws and those eligible must meet six conditions, he said: be currently serving a federal sentence in prison “and by operation of law, likely would’ve received a substantially lower sentence if convicted of the same offense today,” be a nonviolent offender without cartel ties, have served at least 10 years behind bars, “do not have a significant criminal history,” have a good conduct record in prison, and “have no history of violence prior to or during their current term of imprisonment.”

“Identifying worthy candidates within our large prison population will be no easy feat. A good number of inmates will not meet these six criteria,” Cole conceded. “But we are dedicating significant time and resources to ensure that all potentially eligible petitions are reviewed and then processed quickly to ensure timely justice.”

Next week, the Bureau of Prisons will begin notifying inmates of the program. Inmates can then fill out an electronic survey, and those who meet the eligibility requirements “will be offered the assistance of an experienced pro bono attorney in preparing his or her application for clemency.”

These attorneys who have volunteered are calling themselves the Clemency Project 2014.

Cole added that the DOJ is “taking the unusual step of working with the federal Public Defender Service to try to get some of their attorneys detailed to the pardon attorney’s office to support this initiative.”

“Once we have made a preliminary determination that a petition is worthy of serious consideration, we will consult with both the United States attorney’s office and the trial judge that handled the case to get their views on the propriety of granting the application,” he said.

The deputy attorney general stressed that “this clemency initiative should not be understood to minimize the seriousness of our federal criminal law, and is designed first and foremost with public safety in mind. Even low-level offenders cause harm to people through their criminal actions, and many need to be incarcerated.”

“…In the same vein, it’s important to remember that commutations are not pardons. They are not exonerations. They are not expressions of forgiveness. Rather, as the president said, they are, quote, ‘an important step towards restoring fundamental ideals of justice and fairness.’ He noted that many of these individuals would have already served their time and paid their debt to society had they been sentenced under current law.”

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Top Rated Comments   
It seems ironic that Obama wants to pardon hard-core drug dealers, but has recently hired a top-notch criminal lawyer for himself.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Maybe if some of the lesser drug related criminals are sprung, there will be room in our prisons for Obama and Holder.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (44)
All Comments   (44)
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"The quality of mercy is not strange....it falith like the gentle rain"
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
funny but it was reported that the black community wanted tougher laws to deal with the crack cocaine epidemic, and they got those laws. Now they aren't happy.

I would want to know how many that apply had their sentences knocked down, or plead to a lower crime.

And where is the money and manpower to see this happen, and why now.

B.O. has been in office and could have been doing this all along if he felt it important, he has a pen and phone after all, but he didn't, now this seems like a cheap ploy to take attention away from another of his failed policies on the international stage.

And then the media wants to tell us that we are too stupide to follow more than one problem at a time.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Holdup and Osambo know nothing about the black community.Too the black community dose't know that.After this is pushed through,going to be a lot of what went on last weekend in Chicago,all over.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
sounds like this is another political ploy, being launched now to take people's minds off his failed international policies, and the disaster that even a liberal has said is happening with obamacare.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
in other words the only qualifier is having dark skin and playing the race card is the new get out of jail free card
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Obama could also give a blanket pardon for anyone who did, is doing, or will do something illegal at his behest. That would take in large numbers of employees in various Federal departments. For his special help, Holder could get a framed certificate, "get out of jail free" with beautiful calligraphy.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
amen,well said.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
×_+ !!!
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
And they will be registered to vote on their way out the gate.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sorry, I fat-fingered it. And they will be left with the impression that if they do not vote Democrat it's back to the slammer. Don't believe it. Wait.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Don't worry about it, I've done that myself. For those who can't see it. My post above was
"And they will be registered to vote on their way out the gate". To which Anonymous replied:
"and they will be left with the impression that if they do not vote democrat it's back to the slammer. Don't believe it. Wait." Which I have to agree with completely.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
sometimes you just gotta say it, this seems like a good idea...not one that will make much of a difference, but a tiny step in a positive direction at least

big prison is big government too
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why have Republicans not come out against mandatory sentences?
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
I can't speak for all Republicans, but what I've found is that mandatory-minimum sentences prevent bleeding-heart judges froml imposing lenient sentences willy-nilly.

I'm not the biggest fan of them because they seem to be a swing too far of the pendulum.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
How much do any of you actually know about this initiative or sentencing itself?
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Howdy A264E
I dunno about Republican leadership.
There are valid reasons for mandatory sentencing, which is as old as penitentiaries, it seems to me. Crimes have been classified according to how serious the legislators considered them to be and sentencing ranges established on those terms.
Congress worked up the current system of federal standards because of enormous disparities between sentences for people with similar histories and who had been convicted of similar crimes. One can surely debate whether the standards are appropriate but they weren't imposed particularly to be draconian; they were developed to try for a degree of fairness in sentencing that Congress thought had been lost.
I've heard very little call for states to eliminate mandatory sentencing and they had it before the feds did.
I dunno if mandatory sentencing is wise, not for certain. I dunno how much discretion judges should have. Any system is going to feature abuses to some degree.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
It seems ironic that Obama wants to pardon hard-core drug dealers, but has recently hired a top-notch criminal lawyer for himself.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, why not? He's a top-notch criminal!
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Are there really people serving 10+ years for simple possession or are dealers eligible as well? How many drug dealers have no history of violence?
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Supposedly there are people serving life for possession.
http://www.lifeforpot.com/

As for dealing, what often happens is a dealer is busted, he turns someone in to get off, that person turns someone in to get off, etc. until someone's girlfriend who happened to answer the phone does 20 years mandatory.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Will any of the money saved go toward making sure these folks have the tools to get a job and stay away from the drug culture?
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
We spend billions on re-entry already. Sorry, but this is sheer ignorance.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nope.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Crying shame.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Prison is trade school for criminals. Add them to the ones coming across the border and what do you need? Police state.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
No. You need better prisons. Sure, prison is intended to punish, but it also is for rehabilitation.

All prisoners who haven't been graduated from high school should be forced to get their GED's and learn some sort of trade. Get the prisoners into the fields to teach them how to grow their own food. Maybe set up dairies. Perhaps any surplus could be sold to offset the costs of the prison. For those who need it and want it, get them into therapy. Oh, heck. Get even those who don't want it but need it into therapy.


Piss-tests should be given on a random and frequent basis to stop the use of drugs behind bars. Rape should be punished. Violent ofenders should be segregated from non-violent offenders.

Pedophiles should never be released. Sam with people convicted of forcible rape.

Man, I could go on and on about this subject.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Howdy Mandy
I've done a little research on this topic and even had a very brief stint in corrections.
The primary function of prisons is public safety: to keep potentially dangerous people from harming others. I'd include those who have failed probation and parole.
Prisons have been teaching trades, life skills, GED and college curricula, moral reform and so on since well before I was born. A prisoner has to pretty much hide from the various programs to avoid some attempt to benefit the prisoner and many prisoners at least go through the motions to impress parole boards.
They have some effect -- recidivism is something like 70% but then initial offense was close to 100% (allowing for miscarriage of justice).
Prisons are also trade schools for crime, though, because most of the prisoners identify with each other rather than with the rehabilitation program.
Only difficult answers. You and A264E both have valid points. The fact is that all rehab programs have had their successes and more failures than successes. It's a tragedy and a danger.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
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