Last week the Department of Justice signaled that President Obama would begin to take seriously his ability to grant clemency to prisoners by announcing new guidelines for clemency applications (and encouraging those who meet the clemency guidelines to apply. Such a move by President Obama would be a marked departure from his traditionally stingy approach to granting clemency to prisoners.
The AP story is here. The guidelines for clemency applications that would be fast-tracked for consideration are:
- The individual seeking clemency is serving a federal prison sentence,
- By operation of law, if that individual were convicted today he or she likely would have received a substantially lower sentence,
- No history of violence,
- No significant ties to cartels or gangs,
- Served at least 10 years of their sentence,
- Have demonstrated good conduct while in prison
Unquestionably, this is a step in the right direction. It is a recognition that our criminal justice system, particularly for drug offenders has been overly-draconian for many years. If this signals a shift in how President Obama uses his clemency authority, it will be particularly welcome.