CBS News – As part of a new clemency initiative, President Obama could pardon hundreds or even thousands of nonviolent drug offenders by the end of his second term, Yahoo News reports.
Mr. Obama granted very few pardons in his first five years in office: He’s granted just 52 of the 1,600 pardon requests he’s received and just 10 out of 10,000 commutation requests to reduce a sentence.
To rectify that, the Justice Department in February asked defense lawyers and interest groups to help the department identify prisoners serving long sentences for nonviolent drug crimes. Based on that research, the president could grant the largest number of clemencies since the 1970’s.
To help handle the project, the administration is planning on bringing on additional staff and reforming the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney, Yahoo reports.
The changes are part of a broader push — by the administration and bipartisan lawmakers on Capitol Hill — to reform unfair sentencing laws and cut the Justice Department’s growing prison spending.
Last year, for instance, Attorney General Eric Holder directed prosecutors to stop charging many nonviolent drug defendants with offenses that carry mandatory minimum sentences.
Meanwhile, lawmakers like conservative Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and liberal Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., are working together on legislation covering the issue.
A November 2013 report by the American Civil Liberties Union said that at least 3,278 prisoners in the U.S. are serving life sentences without parole for nonviolent drug and property crimes.