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Tag: nonviolent offenders

San Francisco Gate: Offering Clemency to Low-Level Drug Offenders Is Long Overdue

By San Francisco Gate
Editorial Board

When Barack Obama ran for the White House in 2008, federal inmates and their families believed that if he won, miracles would follow. They were convinced that the former law professor and critic of federal mandatory minimum sentences would be liberal with his unfettered constitutional power to free low-level and nonviolent offenders sentenced to decades, even life without parole, behind bars.

Then, for the next five years, criminal lawyers and reformers stood around scratching their heads wondering why Obama held the worst pardon record of any modern president. He commuted one sentence in his first term. When Obama was re-elected in 2012, they hoped he would open the gates. In December, a small door opened. The president commuted the sentences of eight crack offenders, all of whom had served at least 15 years.

On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder made the announcement that promises big change. Holder said the Department of Justice will adopt a “new and improved” approach with a bigger team “committed to recommending as many qualified applicants as possible for reduced sentences.” Expect the new team to seek out nonviolent, low-level drug offenders with clean prison records.

Sam Morison, a former staffer in the pardon attorney’s office, fears the new clemency project will be a “technical exercise that only an expert in the federal sentencing guidelines can appreciate.”
But Mary Price of Families Against Mandatory Minimums is ecstatic. For years, the Justice Department’s Office of Pardon Attorney has served as an “office of no” that rejected cases of clear sentencing overkill.

To read more click here.

Al Jazeera: Obama Should Commute Stiff Sentences of Nonviolent Drug Offenders

Pres. Obama at state of the union/white house photo

By Daniel Denzir
Al Jazeera

Last month Don McIntosh, a journalist and friend of mine in Portland, Ore., posted on Facebook that his half brother Daniel McIntosh had just been sentenced to at least 10 years in prison for selling 954 kilograms of marijuana and money laundering as part of a 16-member pot-selling ring. “Our nation’s drug and mandatory minimum sentencing laws are monstrously unjust,” he wrote. “His mom, his wife and three kids are also punished by this prison sentence.”

It could have been worse. Had federal prosecutors prevailed in convicting Daniel McIntosh of distributing more than 1,000 kilograms, his previous drug convictions would have triggered a sentence of mandatory life without parole. Facing the judge before sentencing, McIntosh reflected on what such a long term would mean. “When you love your children as much as I love mine, sir,” he said, “two days away from them … 10 years, 20 years … I don’t know how my mind can even comprehend that.”

The drug war is in its fifth decade and on its eighth president, yet what befell McIntosh for trafficking a drug that many Americans consider less harmful than alcohol still defies comprehension.

The root of extreme sentencing is legislative: Eighty-three percent of those serving life without parole for a nonviolent offense as of 2012 received a mandatory minimum sentence prescribed by law. Judges protest the harsh sentences even as they hand them down.

To read more click here.

Justice Department Readies for Unprecedented Campaign to Grant Clemency to Nonviolent Offenders

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Obama administration is anticipating thousands of clemency requests from federal inmates imprisoned for drug offenses.

The Washington Post reports that the clemencies are part of an unprecedented campaign to create more equity in criminal sentencing by freeing some nonviolent offenders.

The initiative will last two years and will involve dozens of reassigned lawyers to the pardons office.

“The White House has indicated it wants to consider additional clemency applications, to restore a degree of justice, fairness and proportionality for deserving individuals who do not pose a threat to public safety,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Monday.

“The Justice Department is committed to recommending as many qualified applicants as possible for reduced sentences.”

Justice Department Seeks to Overhaul Prison Sentences for Nonviolent Offenders

 

Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr.

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

Nonviolent criminal offenders may serve less time in jail under a Justice Department proposal aimed at overhauling strict anti-drug laws and mandatory minimum prison sentences, CNN reports.

The goal is to give judges more discretion and to offer alternatives to prison, such as drug court.

Even tough-on-crime conservatives are climbing aboard, saying the prison-industrial complex is inflexible and expensive, CNN reported.

Attorney General Eric Holder is planning to address the issue Monday at a speech in San Francisco.