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Progress continues in efforts to reform federal justice system

Back in the spring of 2014, it was announced by then-Attorney General Eric Holder that the Department of Justice was launching a new initiative designed to counteract the otherwise "draconian" mandatory minimum sentences that were imposed upon low-level non-violent drug offenders.

Specifically, under this groundbreaking DOJ initiative, inmates were -- and continue to be -- urged to submit clemency applications (i.e., petitions to have their sentences reduced or commuted) if they can satisfy a list of rather reasonable conditions.

These include the following:

  • They must have served at least 10 years in prison.
  • They must be classified as low-level, non-violent offenders who have no existing ties to cartels, gangs or large criminal enterprises.
  • They must have no significant criminal history.
  • They must have no history of violence before or during imprisonment.
  • They must have demonstrated good conduct while incarcerated.
  • They must show that they likely would have received a substantially lower sentence if convicted of the same offense in a modern-day court

For those who are otherwise unfamiliar with these draconian mandatory minimum sentences, they are essentially a byproduct of the nation's longstanding war on drugs.

Indeed, they have long been universally condemned for not only being unduly harsh and having a disproportionate impact on minority communities, but also for contributing to the nation's problems with prison overcrowding, which has now reached critical mass.

By way of example, consider the case of a Texas mother who was sentenced to life in prison by a federal judge back in 1999 for a single cocaine-related offense despite being a first time, low-level offender.

The good news in all this, however, is that the DOJ initiative, part of a comprehensive effort by the White House to reform the nation's criminal justice system, is starting to pay dividends.

To date, President Obama has granted clemency to 184 federal inmates, the majority of whom submitted applications via the DOJ initiative. In fact, just last Friday, 95 drug offenders were granted clemency, including the woman in Texas, who will finally get to be reunited with the daughter she left behind.

As if this wasn't encouraging enough, statistics show that there are currently just over 9,000 clemency petitions pending government approval, while both the Senate and the House of Representatives are hard at work drafting bipartisan bills designed to reform federal sentencing laws.

Here's hoping we continue to see meaningful change ...

In the meantime, if you have been charged with any sort of drug crime at either the state or federal level, please contact the Law Offices of Horwitz & Citro, P.A. as soon as possible. Given the stakes involved -- your freedom, your reputation, your future -- we will need to get to work as soon as possible preparing your defense.