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DOJ Takes Step Toward Reducing Mass Incarceration with Clemency Initiative

The Department of Justice today announced a clemency initiative aimed at easing sentences for all qualified federal inmates.

April 23, 2014

The Depart­ment of Justice today announced a clem­ency initi­at­ive aimed at easing sentences for all qual­i­fied federal inmates. In a recent report, the Bren­nan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law called for the DOJ to actively identify all federal pris­on­ers whose sentences would be reduced if the Fair Senten­cing Act were retro­act­ively applied to exped­ite the review of their peti­tions. Today’s DOJ announce­ment applies to any federal inmate meet­ing six defined criteria.

“Thou­sands of Amer­ic­ans are serving overly harsh prison sentences that are dispro­por­tion­ate to their offenses,” said Nicole Austin-Hillery, director of the Bren­nan Center’s Wash­ing­ton, D.C. office. “Expand­ing the Justice Depart­ment’s clem­ency process and provid­ing clear criteria is a smart step toward redu­cing unne­ces­sary incar­cer­a­tion. It will save taxpayer dollars, return balance to the scales of justice, and most import­antly, give many deserving men and women a second chance at life outside of a prison cell.”

“With this initi­at­ive, the pres­id­ent is making better use of his clem­ency powers to reduce our explod­ing prison popu­la­tion,” added Inimai Chet­tiar, director of the Bren­nan Center’s Justice Program. “This is an excel­lent use of exec­ut­ive power by the pres­id­ent. Addi­tional oppor­tun­it­ies to use clem­ency to reduce mass incar­cer­a­tion exist. Specific­ally, in addi­tion to these import­ant steps forward, the Justice Depart­ment should work to identify and seek out the estim­ated 5,000 Amer­ic­ans who languish in federal prison because they were sentenced before the 2010 Fair Senten­cing Act reduced the unjust senten­cing dispar­ity between crack and powder cocaine crimes. It should then soli­cit, review, and exped­ite clem­ency applic­a­tions from these pris­on­ers, instead of wait­ing for them to identify them­selves.”

For more on the Bren­nan Center’s clem­ency recom­mend­a­tions read the full report, 15 Exec­ut­ive Actions.

For more inform­a­tion or to set up an inter­view, contact Desiree Ramos Reiner at desiree.rein­er­@nyu.edu or 646–292–8321.