Washington, DC (Dec. 17, 2014) – President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of eight federal prisoners, and pardoned 12 others on Wednesday. These mark the first commutations the President has granted since the U.S. Department of Justice announced its clemency initiative in April of 2014.
"We commend President Obama for keeping his promise to provide relief for federal prisoners serving excessively long sentences; terms of imprisonment they would not receive if sentenced today," said Cynthia W. Roseberry, project manager for Clemency Project 2014. "Federal sentencing laws and policies have changed, and the country has changed, but thousands of federal prisoners remain incarcerated under antiquated laws and ways of thinking about crime. We urge the President to commute more of the unjust sentences faced by federal prisoners."
Clemency Project 2014 is a working group composed of lawyers and advocates including the Federal Defenders, the American Civil Liberties Union, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the American Bar Association, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, as well as individuals active within those organizations. It launched in January, after Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole asked the legal profession to provide pro bono assistance to federal prisoners who would likely have received a shorter sentence if they had been sentenced today.
According to the criteria released by the Justice Department, prisoners must be:
- currently serving a federal sentence in prison and, by operation of law, likely would have received a substantially lower sentence if convicted of the same offense(s) today;
- have a non-violent history with no significant ties to organized crime, gangs or cartels;
- have served at least 10 years;
- have no significant prior convictions;
- have demonstrated good conduct in prison; and
- have no history of violence prior to or during their current term of imprisonment.
Clemency Project 2014 is recruiting and training attorneys on an ongoing, on demand basis on how to screen for prisoners who meet the criteria listed above and assist them in preparing commutation petitions. Several hundred lawyers have volunteered to assist prisoners and are reviewing more than 26,000 requests from prisoners who have asked Clemency Project 2014 for assistance.
For more information and to volunteer for Clemency Project 2014, please visit www.clemencyproject2014.org.
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