Those men and women currently serving lengthy federal prison sentences were provided with much-needed hope back in 2014 when the Department of Justice announced that it was launching a new clemency initiative.
Specifically, the DOJ indicated that it would prioritize the applications of federal inmates seeking to have their prison sentences shortened by President Barack Obama if they met the following criteria:
- They would have been given shorter sentences if convicted of the same crime today.
- They have served at least ten years of their sentence.
- They have been model prisoners, and have no history of violence prior to or during their time behind bars.
- They do not have a significant criminal history and no ties to large-scale criminal enterprises (gangs, cartels, organizations, etc.).
The initiative, undertaken largely to mitigate some of the disproportionately severe sentences handed down during the height of the war on drugs, resulted in the filing of thousands of applications, all of which were — and continue to be — subjected to a rigorous three-level review process by DOJ attorneys.
While the pace of this review process is perhaps not proceeding as quickly as many would like, there have been results. Indeed, just last Wednesday, President Obama commuted the sentences of 214 federal inmates, including 30 here in the state of Florida.
This constituted the largest single-day grant of commutations in U.S. history and brought the total number of commutations granted by President Obama to 562, more than any president since Calvin Coolidge was in the Oval Office.
For those unfamiliar with the clemency powers of the President, they essentially have the right to grant commutations, which reduce prison sentences while leaving other conditions in place (supervised release, etc.), and the right to grant pardons, which are tantamount to full legal forgiveness for any crimes committed.
It remains to be seen how many more, if any, commutations will be granted by President Obama during his remaining months in office. Regardless, it’s extremely encouraging to see these 214 inmates provided with a new lease on life.
If you are under investigation or have been charged with any sort of federal drug crime, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and your options.