The DOJ recently notified the public that Obama is expanding his clemency power to a broader range of offenses. Thousands of inmates are now eligible to apply.
Mandatory minimum sentences passed a few decades ago for non-violent offenders has gained widespread media attention in recent years.
Congress passed laws that handed down automatic, mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes, regardless of individual circumstances. In some cases, people are serving life sentences for simple drug possession because of these strict laws. Amid the public’s scrutiny, the Obama Administration is taking notice.
This past January, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at the United States Sentencing Commission hearing about the Department of Justice’s plans to take action on circumventing or repealing these sentencing laws.
Recently, Holder unveiled a specific plan-one that involves the use of Obama’s clemency power.
The specifics of the clemency program
In a video recently released this month, Holder indicated the President’s plan to expand his clemency power. Specifically, the Department of Justice will broaden clemency eligibility for a wider range of convictions than what was considered in the past-particularly ones that came with unfair sentences.
Holder indicated that the measure is geared toward the restoration of “justice, fairness, and proportionality for deserving individuals who do not pose a threat to public safety.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney indicated that Obama “has asked the Department of Justice to set up a process aimed to ensure that anyone who has a good case for commutation has their application seen and evaluated thoroughly.”
The staff size of the Office of the Pardon Attorney tasked with handling the applications will be increased in order to accommodate the expected rise in applications.
The significance of the initiative
The expansion of Obama’s clemency power is a sign that the administration is serious about taking action against these unfair laws. Obama has granted only 10 commutations and 52 pardons in his roughly 5 years in the White House-more than many other Presidents that were in office before him.
Many are hopeful that Obama’s clemency initiative will not only brings justice to the thousands of inmates serving such harsh sentences for low level crimes, but reduce the U.S. inmate population that has skyrocketed in that last three decades.
The U.S. is currently ranked number one in incarceration rates in the entire world. Many of these individuals are serving time for drug offenses. Presently, America’s prison population is close to 2.5 million. About 754 per 100,000 people in the nation are in prison-a high number when compared against other developed countries. Japan, for instance, houses 59 people per 100,000 people and Greece houses 102 per 100,000 individuals.
Keywords: drug crimes clemency