Bulk of prisons make up drug offenders, Obama plans to change that

A chance at freedom may be on the horizon for many offenders presently serving long prison sentences for non-violent crimes like drug offenses.

Recently, Attorney General Eric Holder with the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that President Obama has plans to expand his clemency authority to include additional crimes that weren't applicable in years past.

The plan is another way the administration is attempting to circumvent the long prison sentences many low-level or non-violent individuals are serving as a result of mandatory minimum sentencing laws passed in the 1980s and 1990s.

The statement

In a video released April 14, 2014, Holder announced that Obama will consider clemency applications for "prisoners serving longer sentences than they would if they were facing justice now." Too many people who were sentenced under the "old regime" are sentenced to tougher prison sentences than people convicted for the same crimes today, Holder stated.

By utilizing his clemency power, Obama hopes to help "restore a degree of justice, fairness, and proportionality for deserving individuals who do not pose a threat to public safety," Holder stated.

Specifically, the DOJ will be giving authority to the Office of the Pardon Attorney to accept applications for a broader range of convictions. The agency also has plans to increase the department staff size to accommodate the expected increase in the number of applications.

Reason behind the decision

The decision is great news for prison advocates, but it isn't surprising. Obama has made it clear in the past his opinions on prison reform.

In January, Holder revealed the administration's future intentions to put forth measures within their power to reduce or release offenders who have been given extremely long and unfair prison sentences. And it seems that the administration is acting on those intentions via the clemency program expansion.

Getting the message out

However, getting the message out to inmates is key. Many may not realize that they now qualify for potential clemency.

"One of the things we have to do is to make people who are incarcerated aware of that avenue," Holder said in a recent appearance in Virginia. Media outlets have been covering the issue which will hopefully assist the administration in getting the word out to those presently incarcerated.

It remains to be seen how many offenders will be affected and granted clemency for their crimes. Prison advocates are hopeful that the initiative will really affect the prison population rate.

According to the most recent data from December 2012, there are roughly 197,000 inmates serving time in federal prison. Out of that number, almost 100,000 are serving time for drug offenses, many of which are nonviolent.


Many offenders serving long prison sentences may get a chance at freedom in the near future. The DOJ recently revealed that President Obama has plans to expand crimes eligible for clemency.


*Obama expands clemency program*

Your loved one could be eligible for clemency and have a shot at freedom in the near future. Obama has expanded clemency eligibility for drug offenders and other individuals serving time for non-violent offenses. Take a look.