Wednesday, April 23, 2014
The DOJ announced today that thousands of non-violent drug offenders will be eligible for early release. Eligibility will depend on whether:
They are nonviolent, low-level offenders without "significant ties to large scale criminal organizations, gangs or cartels.
They have served at least 10 years of their sentence.
They do not have a "significant criminal history."
They have demonstrated good conduct in prison.
They have no history of violence before or during their current imprisonment."
The new clemency guidelines reflect the DOJ's ongoing effort to mitigate sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine as a result of mandatory minimums before the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act.
Inmates, the administration said, will be notified in coming days about the expedited clemency program, and how to access pro bono lawyers through a working group called Clemency Project 2014. The group, formed after Cole asked lawyers to help with the clemency initiative, includes federal defenders, as well as representatives from groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Bar Association.
While the move has been hailed by groups working for fairness and sentencing, and also additional changes to mandatory minimum drug sentences – including bipartisan efforts on Capitol Hill – some prosecutors have expressed skepticism about the clemency initiative.
"Americans want to rest assured knowing that 10 years means 10 years, and life in prison means life in prison," says Scott Burns, head of the National District Attorneys Association. "Prosecutors' fears are that our low level of serious crime in America will begin to rise – and nobody will monitor the cost of re-arresting and re-prosecuting offenders when they commit new crimes."