The federal government recently announced a new clemency program that is targeted for drug offenders who are non-violent and are serving lengthy prison sentences due to the harsh sentencing practices from the 1980’s, when crack cocaine use had reached epidemic proportions. Many of those serving time would have much shorter prison terms under today’s sentencing guidelines. The program is also aimed at easing overcrowding in prisons and lowering corrections costs.
At a press conference announcing the new program, U.S. Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole said, "We are launching this clemency initiative … to quickly and effectively identify appropriate candidates … who have a clean prison record, do not present a threat to public safety, and were sentenced under out-of-date laws that have since been changed … this initiative is not limited to crack offenders."
The Department of Justice (DOJ) anticipates that the new program could affect thousands of federal prisoners. All prisoners will be notified of the program and the department will be applying "significant time and resources" to ensure that prisoners that qualify for the clemency program and early release will be identified.
In his statement, Cole also outlined what the criteria for federal prisoners to qualify for clemency. The criteria includes:
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