Pres. Obama & Eric Holder Plan Clemency For "Thousands" Of Non-Violent Drug Offenders

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President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder could begin to offer clemency to mass numbers of inmates incarcerated across the country on non-violent drug charges. According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, Holder announced today that "the Justice Department will soon detail new, more expansive criteria that the department will use in considering when to recommend clemency applications for President Obama’s review." The news follows the widespread observance of 4-20 Day this past weekend, a January announcement of the Obama administration's plans to make sweeping changes to drug policy and widespread criticism of the President's failure to exercise his pardon privileges with more frequency; according to a report from CBS News, "He's granted just 52 of the 1,600 pardon requests he's received and just nine out of 10,000 commutation requests to reduce a sentence."

The D.O.J. is seeking to break the trend in an effort to reduce sentencing disparities for drug offenders being held in the federal prison system. The changes will include, amongst other things, the institution of new criteria for determining clemency recommendations. Holder explained the expected scope of those changes and the thinking behind the planned policy reforms:

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

Scroll down for some more key details of the plan and watch the video below to view Attorney General Eric Holder's full announcement. Learn more about the proposed changes and how they could potentially affect the sentencing, incarceration and clemency processes for people jailed on non-violent drug offenses via

“Later this week, the deputy attorney general will announce new criteria that the department will consider when recommending applications for the President’s review. This new and improved approach will make the criteria for clemency recommendation more expansive. This will allow the Department of Justice and the president to consider requests from a larger field of eligible individuals.

“Once these reforms go into effect, we expect to receive thousands of additional applications for clemency. And we at the Department of Justice will meet this need by assigning potentially dozens of lawyers – with backgrounds in both prosecution and defense – to review applications and provide the rigorous scrutiny that all clemency applications require.

“As a society, we pay much too high a price whenever our system fails to deliver the just outcomes necessary to deter and punish crime, to keep us safe, and to ensure that those who have paid their debts have a chance to become productive citizens.

“Our expanded clemency application process will aid in this effort. And it will advance the aims of our innovative new Smart on Crime initiative – to strengthen the criminal justice system, promote public safety and deliver on the promise of equal justice under law.”