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What is the Justice Department's Clemency Initiative?

In early 2014, ex-Deputy Attorney General James. M. Cole released the U.S. Justice Department's clemency initiative. The initiative asked certain federal inmates to submit petitions to request reduced or commuted sentences from the President of the United States. The initiative announced that the Justice Department would prioritize clemency petitions submitted by inmates meeting the specific criteria listed below.

Qualifications for federal non-violent clemency consideration

In order to qualify for prioritized clemency consideration, federal inmates must be able to answer yes to all of the following questions:

  1. Are you serving a federal prison sentence, and if you were convicted today for the same offense, would you receive a lesser sentence?
  2. Are you a non-violent, or low-violent offender who does not have meaningful ties to cartels, gangs or large criminal organizations?
  3. Have you served 10 or more years of your prison sentence?
  4. Do you lack a significant criminal history?
  5. Have you shown exhibited good behavior during your time in prison?
  6. Prior to you lack a history of violence before and during your time in prison?

Why is clemency being considered now?

According to ex-Deputy Attorney General Cole, the effectiveness of our criminal justice system not only relies on the system being fair, but it also relies on the system being perceived as fair. In announcing his initiative, Cole stated that older, more severe punishments - for which many non-violent inmates are serving time - are not in alignment with the current sentencing standards being imposed now under current laws. This has the effect of diminishing the American people's confidence in our nation's criminal justice system. Accordingly, he felt that the clemency initiative of 2014 would serve to promote our nation's ideals of equality and justice.

Do you qualify for clemency?

There are a lot of federal inmates who could qualify for clemency but have yet to petition for consideration. If you or a loved one are currently serving a long-term sentence in federal prison for a non-violent crime, you might want to discuss your case with an Ohio criminal law attorney, who can advise you on the best next steps to take in seeking clemency. If successfully navigated, the clemency petition might result in a reduced senten ce and/or early release from prison.

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