In March of 2016, President Barack Obama granted Carol Denise Richardson a commutation of the life sentence she received in June 2006 after being convicted on two counts of conspiring to distribute crack cocaine and other drug-related charges. Her long criminal history included two previous felony drug offenses, which brought her a lifetime sentence for
The Obama administration’s “Clemency Initiative 2014,” a highly-touted program designed to grant clemency to nonviolent offenders and other federal prisoners, has yet to make a substantial impact on the exploding federal prison population. While some 16 percent of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ 218,000 prisoners have applied for clemency, less than three dozen prisoners have
On March 30, President Obama commuted the prison sentences of 61 federal prisoners – over a third of whom were serving life sentences, for drug or firearms offenses. After a White House event highlighting the clemency action, the president invited ex-inmates whose sentences had previously been commuted to join him for lunch at a local
The Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), mandates sentence enhancements for certain federal defendants who commit crimes with firearms; those who have three or more prior “violent felonies” or “serious” drug offenses face a minimum 15-year prison term.In some cases, however, prior state convictions should not qualify as “predicate” offenses for the
On April 23, 2014, Attorney General of the United States, Eric H. Holder, Jr. announced a new initiative intended to encourage appropriate candidates to petition for executive clemency from the President of the United States.
The initiative comes amid public statements by Holder and other top federal officials suggesting President Barrack H. Obama may eventually issue hundreds, if not thousands, of commutations to federal prisoners, mostly for non-violent drug offenders sentenced under now mostly discarded sentencing policies that affected a disproportionate number of minorities.
The April 23, 2014 announcement has prompted the Department of Justice (DOJ), through the Federal Bureau of Prisons, to set forth specific standards for the new initiative, and announces the formation of the Clemency Project 2014, a consortium of defense attorneys and non-profit organizations who have volunteered to assist some candidates for clemency advance their petitions.
The Criteria for Clemency
While the Constitution accords the President the authority to bestow clemency on anyone, the 2014 initiative is targeted at clemency for a specific profile of offenders. According to a Federal Bureau of Prisons announcement made on May 5, 2014, it invites petitions from “non-violent federal inmates who would not pose a threat to public safety if released.” The announcement stated that the initiative is limited to inmates who: