Thousands of inmates are still serving federally mandated sentences that imposed strict penalties, and President Obama has called sentences passed under the older guidelines "unduly harsh."
Attorney General Eric Holder expects thousands of applications from non-violent offenders. Holder stated that this initiative was "to restore a degree of justice, fairness and proportionality for deserving individuals who do not pose a threat to public safety." He then went on to say, "There are still too many people in federal prison who were sentenced under the old regime, and who, as a result, will have to spend far more time in prison than they would if sentenced today for exactly the same crime. This is simply not right." Attorney General Holder added, "we have to come up with ways in which we identify people who are worthy of clemency, commutations, and not in the way I think we have traditionally done."
Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole stated: "For our Criminal Justice System to be effective, it needs to not only be fair, but it also must be perceived as being fair. Older, stringent punishments that are out of line with sentences imposed under today's laws erode people's confidence in our Criminal Justice System and I am confident that this initiative will go far to promote the most fundamental of American ideals: Equal Justice Under Law."
White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler stated that clemency is an important "fail-safe mechanism" in the criminal justice system. She said, "When a worthy candidate runs out of other options the President has the power to correct an injustice that no one else has."
On April 23, 2014 the Department of Justice announced an initiative to encourage appropriate candidates to petition for executive clemency, seeking to have their sentences commuted, or reduced, by the President of the United States.
Commutation of sentence remains unusual and extraordinarily rare. This initiative, however, invites petitions from non-violent federal inmates who would not pose a threat to public safety if released. In particular, this initiative is limited to inmates who:
✔ Are 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(s) today;
✔ Are non-violent, low-level offenders without significant ties to large-scale criminal organizations, gangs, or cartels;
✔ Have served at least 10 years of their sentence;
✔ Do not have a significant criminal history;
✔ Have demonstrated good conduct in prison; and
✔ Have no history of violence prior to or during their current term of imprisonment.
✔= Mark meets all six criteria