“These men and women were not hardened criminals,” Obama said in his Facebook Video, “But the overwhelming majority had been sentenced to at least 20 years—14 of them had been sentenced to life—for nonviolent drug offenses. So their punishments didn’t fit the crime, and if they’d been sentenced under today’s laws, all of them would have already served their time.”
Yesterday President Obama commuted the sentences for 46 drug offenders. Mandatory minimums in court affect drug offenders more than anyone else. Federal minimum sentencing has taken nonviolent drug offenders and funneled them into decade or life sentences. This is an early step towards complete criminal justice reform. This is a great change in thought however there are still over 3,000 non-violent drug offenders in federal prison serving life in prison.
According to Seth Ferranti and Robert Rosso the criteria for clemency is:
“Specifically, inmates must currently be serving a sentence that would be lower today (there has been a series of changes in federal law dating back to 2001 that would substantially lower the sentences of thousands of prisoners currently behind bars); be a nonviolent offender; have no significant ties to large-scale criminal organizations or gangs; have served at least 10 years; does not have a significant criminal history; has demonstrated good conduct in prison; and has no history of violence prior to or during incarceration.”
The Clemency Project is currently overrun with over 30,000 requests.
The criminal justice system is going to be very hard to change. Is this too little too late? Over 9000 clemency applications have been denied under these criteria. Hopefully this new movement by the Administration will start to correct the wrongs done by the war on drugs in the 1980s.