The Obama administration is planning to grant clemency to a large number of nonviolent drug offenders who were saddled with obscene terms thanks to mandatory minimum laws. These tough-on-drug laws that were popular three decades ago have played a big role in the explosion of the American prison population.
A senior official says that during Obama’s last few years in office he may grant clemency to “hundreds, perhaps thousands” of people“:
The scope of the new clemency initiative is so large that administration officials are preparing a series of personnel and process changes to help them manage the influx of petitions they expect Obama to approve. Among the changes is reforming the recently censured office within the Justice Department responsible for processing pardon petitions. Yahoo News has learned that the pardon attorney, Ronald Rodgers, who was criticized in a 2012 Internal watchdog report for mishandling a high-profile clemency petition, is likely to step down as part of that overhaul. Additional procedures for handling large numbers of clemency petitions could be announced as soon as this week, a senior administration official said, though it could take longer.
While it is important to reserve praise until there is tangible action to actually judge, this would be a very positive move. Not only would it improve the lives of many Americans who were treated unjustly, but also it would save the country enormous amounts of money. Keeping someone in prison costs tens of thousands of dollars a year.
Democrats and Republicans in the Senate have been working together on a sentencing reform bill, the Smarter Sentencing Act, which could improve things moving forward but the President is the only one who has the power to do something immediately.