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Inmates Applying for Clemency Encouraged by Justice Department
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Officials announced Wednesday that, the Justice Department is encouraging nonviolent federal inmates who have behaved in prison, have no significant criminal history and have already served more than 10 years behind bars to apply for clemency. The Obama administration’s effort is to cut back on the nation’s prison population and scale back strict punishments for drug offenders without a criminal past. The goal is to make a larger pool of eligible prisoners the Justice Department can recommend to President Obama to examine for shorter sentences.

  
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The prisoners must meet at least half a dozen of the criteria Deputy Attorney General James Cole presented to the government that will be considered for future inmate applications. “These defendants were properly held accountable for their criminal conduct. However, some of them, simply because of the operation of sentencing laws on the books at the time, received substantial sentences that are disproportionate to what they would receive today,” Cole said. “Even the sentencing judges in many of these cases expresses regret at the time at having to impose such harsh sentences.”

The Obama Administration will correct an old sentencing structure that governed black convicts to long terms for crack cocaine convictions, while giving lesser sentences to those arrested with white powder, who were mostly white. Officials are focusing on inmates who have received their sentences under the old guidelines that are now considered harsh.

In August, Attorney General Eric Holder told prosecutors to not charge low-level, nonviolent drug offenders with crimes that impose mandatory minimum sentences. President Obama in December shortened the sentences of eight prisoners he said had been locked up too long for drug crimes. According to White House spokesman, Jay Carney, the White House is seeking additional good candidates to consider for clemency, he said on Monday, the number of commutations “will depend entirely on the number of worthy candidates.”

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