Post Date: January 31, 2014
(Washington Post) — The Obama administration, stepping up its efforts to overhaul the criminal justice system, called Thursday for the early release of more low-level, nonviolent drug offenders from federal prisons.
Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, speaking to the New York State Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section, said the administration wants to free inmates who no longer pose a threat to public safety and whose long-term incarceration “harms our criminal justice system.” He appealed to defense lawyers to identify candidates for clemency.
“You each can play a critical role in this process by providing a qualified petitioner — one who has a clean record in prison, does not present a threat to public safety, and who is facing a life or near-life sentence that is excessive under current law — with the opportunity to get a fresh start,” Cole told the lawyers.
His remarks were part of a broader prison reform effort by the Justice Department. In August, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced that low-level drug offenders with no connection to gangs or large-scale drug organizations would no longer be charged with offenses that called for severe mandatory sentences. President Obama later commuted the sentences of eight inmates serving a long time for crack cocaine convictions. Read more