Department of Justice Announces New Standards for Initiative on Executive Clemency

By Christopher Zoukis /

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:

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