Law Offices of Jess C. Bedore III - Certified Specialist in Criminal Law
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Clemency for non-violent, low-level drug criminals is needed

One of the major announcements of 2014 that involves the criminal defense world was made by the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder. He said earlier this year that the Obama Administration plans to consider, and hopefully approve, more clemency applications when it comes to prison inmates who are locked up for low-level or non-violent drug crimes.

This is a huge step because as we have talked about numerous times on this blog -- and even just last week -- the perception of drugs is what drives high incarceration rates and extreme punishments. Yes, drugs are bad, but the low-level offenders who deal these drugs and avoid violent crimes don't deserve to have their lives ruined. They made a mistake, and they may deserve some punishment. But not extensive time in prison, like what can happen under mandatory minimum sentencing.

People who are jailed under these low level crimes that don't involve violence could deal with the consequences of their actions for a lifetime. They may have trouble finding a job or a place to live because of their criminal history. In fact, it may make them more likely to commit crimes in the future, and endless cycle that has been alluded to by criminal analysts before.

So any steps towards increased exonerations and more approved clemency applications should be met with a cautious smile. It's a good thing for many people behind bars, but there is still a long way to go -- and many things need to happen -- before we get this right.

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