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DOJ To Expand Clemency Rules for Drug Offenders

Attorney General Eric Holder details more expansive criteria for clemency eligibility.

The Justice Department is set to announce new rules this week that could mean reduced sentences for thousands of federal prisoners convicted of non-violent drug crimes.

The Justice Department anticipates it will receive thousands of new applications for presidential clemency when it details new, more expansive criteria that government lawyers will use in making recommendations to the White House about the treatment of drug offenders.

"The White House has indicated it wants to consider additional clemency applications to restore a degree of justice, fairness, and proportionality for deserving individuals who do not pose a threat to public safety,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a video message posted on the Department's website. “ The Justice Department is committed to recommending as many qualified applicants as possible for reduced sentences.”

The changes are part of a part of a Justice Department push, under Holder, to reduce sentencing disparities for drug offenders in federal prison. While the rules were recently changed, many people remain in prison who were sentenced under the old system that treated offenses related crack cocaine much more harshly than for powder cocaine.

DOJ will soon bring in additional lawyers to the pardon office in anticipation of more requests.