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Apply for the Federal Clemency Initiative: Get Out of Jail Now If You Meet the Criteria for Presidential Pardon (and 1000s Will)

According to YahooNews, an official within the Obama White House has confirmed that President Obama will soon begin to use HIS presidential power to pardon convicted inmates within the federal prison system and free thousands of federal inmates who have been convicted and sentenced to federal prison time for violation of federal drug laws. One key is that they cannot be violent crimes: the pardons will go to a record number of inmates who are behind bars for nonviolent federal drug crimes.

Apparently, the drive to get applications from federal inmates that began earlier this year wasn’t getting enough formal requests filed so last Wednesday, new rules went into effect to expand the eligibility requirements so more people will qualify for the clemency program. The Justice Department is optimistic that these new rules are going to bring in lots of applicants; so much so that Eric Holder announced that he is assigning more of his department’s lawyers to deal with all these new applications that the DOJ is anticipating they are about to receive.


In January 2014 Justice Department Asks Defense Bar to Help Find Candidates for Clemency

This is a big deal for the Justice Department and it’s something that has been going on for awhile. Several months ago, back in January 2014, there was an official announcement from the White House where criminal defense lawyers were encouraged to provide names of federal inmates that might fit the criteria for clemency. From remarks given by Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole at the January 2014 New York State Bar Association Annual Meeting:

This brings me to another issue I want to address with you today and ask for your help. The issue is executive clemency, particularly commutation of sentence. Commutation of sentence is an extraordinary remedy that is rarely used. But it may be available in certain circumstances, including when an individual has a clean record in prison, does not present a threat to public safety, and has been sentenced under out-of-date laws that have since been changed, and are no longer seen as appropriate.

As I said earlier, our prisons include many low-level drug offenders. Now, let there be no mistake, even the low-level drug offenders cause harm to people through their criminal actions and many need to be incarcerated. I don’t want to minimize the impact of their behavior. Our prosecutors worked diligently, along with law enforcement agents, to collect evidence and charge these defendants, and then fairly and effectively obtained their convictions. They were properly held accountable for their criminal conduct. However, some of them, because of the operation of sentencing laws on the books at the time, received life sentences, or the equivalent of a life sentence, for limited conduct. For our criminal justice system to be effective, it needs to not only be fair; but it also must be perceived as being fair. These older, stringent punishments, that are out of line with sentences imposed under today’s laws, erode people’ s confidence in our criminal justice system. ….

To help correct this, we need to identify these individuals and get well-prepared petitions into the Department of Justice. It is the Department’s goal to find additional candidates, who are similarly situated to the eight granted clemency last year, and recommend them to the President for clemency consideration.

This is where you can help. We are looking to the New York State Bar Association and other bar associations to assist potential candidates for executive clemency.

We envision that attorneys will assist potential candidates in assembling effective and appropriate commutation petitions — ones which provide a focused presentation of the information the Department and the President need to consider — in order to meaningfully consider clemency for similarly situated petitioners. …. Going forward, the federal Bureau of Prisons will begin advising inmates of the opportunity to apply for sentence commutation.

April 2014 Justice Department Still On the Hunt for More Clemency Candidates

Yahoo is reporting that the White House still wants more names and has instructed the DOJ to get more completed applications in the inbox.  Hence, the new rules from the Justice Department this week.

8 Federal Inmates Granted Clemency in January 2014 by Obama

Eight (8) federal inmates were granted clemency and released from prison by President Obama. Each of them had been convicted of crack cocaine related federal drug crimes. They had been sentenced under federal law prior to the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, and were imprisoned for terms that the president deemed “unfair” based upon a 100 : 1 difference between federal sentences at the time of their sentencing that were 100 times more harsh for crack cocaine as for powder cocaine. (The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 changed this.)

What are the New Criteria for Clemency?

Under the rules announced last week by the Justice Department, you or a loved one incarcerated in a federal prison on a federal drug charge may be eligible for the Obama Clemency Initiative if you meet these criteria:

  • You are an inmate served currently serving a federal sentence in prison and, by operation of law, likely would have received a substantially lower sentence if convicted of the same offense today
  • at least 10 years in prison
  • no “significant” criminal history
  • Pattern of good conduct while incarcerated (e.g., not in a gang, etc.)
  • No violent history either in convictions or behavior during time behind bars.

What’s Going on Here?

Mercy is a part of this Clemency Initiative. And that is good. However, money is also a big BIG part of what is going on here. The federal prison system is unbelievably overcrowded and there are record numbers of people being housed in the federal prison system.

The Clemency Initiative is a financial must for the federal government to get those federal facilities some relief and releasing these non-violent, 10 year, drug convictions is a good place to start.

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