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White House Continues Efforts To Fight Draconian Drug Sentences

On Behalf of | Jul 24, 2015 | Drug Charges

At the outset of his second term, President Obama made it very clear that one of his priorities was going to be introducing reform to the federal criminal justice system — with or without support from Capitol Hill.

To that end, then-Attorney General Eric Holder announced in 2013 that the Justice Department was changing course regarding non-violent, low-level drug offenders, only charging them with crimes that do not call for otherwise severe mandatory minimum sentences going foward.

Just last year, the White House tasked the Department of Justice with developing standards designed to help identify non-violent, low-level drug offenders who would make good candidates for clemency, and with locating such offenders in the federal prison system who, if convicted under today’s policies, would likely have been given far less time behind bars.

Since that time, President Obama has commuted the prison sentences of many non-violent, low-level drug offenders. Indeed, just last week, he commuted the prison sentences of 46 men and women — 14 of whom were sentenced to life — saying, “their punishments didn’t fit the crime” and bringing his total number of commutations to 89.

For those unfamiliar with a commutation, it’s different from a pardon in that it doesn’t serve to restore certain rights such as the right to vote, sit on a jury or hold office. Rather, it means that while an offender’s sentence is reduced — partially or completely — the conviction remains on their record.

In the case of the 46 prisoners who received commuted prison sentences, they will be released in several months, and still be subject to the supervision and other conditions set forth as part of their original sentencing.

It’s worth noting that the issue of reforming the federal criminal justice system and reducing the prison population is gaining momentum in Congress thanks to a rare showing of bipartisan support. Indeed, several bills with bipartisan backing have already been advanced, including the Smarter Sentencing Act, sponsored by multiple lawmakers from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) to Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).

Stay tuned for updates …

If you have been arrested for any sort of drug crime — at the state or federal level — consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.