Obama Clemency Plan Could Free Hundreds of Nonviolent Offenders

Monday, 21 Apr 2014 05:33 PM

By Angela Deines

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President Barack Obama could soon be granting clemencies that would rival the number granted in the 1970s.

A senior administration official has told Yahoo News that President Obama could grant clemency to "hundreds, perhaps thousands" of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug crimes by the time he leaves office in 2016. Administration officials are preparing procedural changes in expectation for the onslaught of clemency requests that are expected with the policy initiative.

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While the president campaigned on reforming federal sentencing guidelines, his track record for granting clemencies has been described as “abysmal” by the American Civil Liberties Union, pardoning just 22 people and commuting the sentence of just one person.

The blame for that, administration officials said, lies with the Office of the Pardon Attorney, which is a part of the Justice Department. The office is supposed to make recommendations to the Deputy Attorney General’s office whether to grant the clemency petitions. That office is then supposed to send those recommendations on to the White House. Toward the end of his first term, President Obama was reportedly frustrated that he hadn’t been receiving more clemency requests.

According to a senior White House official, pardon attorney Ronald Rodgers was recommending that the President deny nearly every single petition for a pardon or a reduced sentence. Rodgers is said to be stepping down from his post as part of the administration’s overhaul of the pardoning process, Yahoo reported.

Barbara Scrivner, who is serving a 30-year sentence in a California prison for an Oregon drug conviction, is one such inmate who is hoping President Obama’s new clemency rules will get her out of prison. She was 27 years old when she began serving a lengthy sentence because of mandatory minimum penalties that are no longer in effect today.

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