Today, the Justice Department announced rule changes that would make it easier for certain Federal inmates who are serving time in Federal prison for drug convictions to be eligible to apply for a pardon from the President of the United States. The rule changes broaden the criteria for prisoners who are serving time and are expected to lead to the filing of thousands of clemency petitions. In order to be eligible to file for clemency the prisoner must be a low level, non-violent offender without a significant criminal history, must be serving a federal sentence that would most likely be more serious than what he would have received today, must have served at least 10 years of their sentence and must have a good prison record without any history of violence before, or after their drug conviction. The changes are in response to the disparity of sentences between defendants convicted of powder cocaine as opposed to crack cocaine. There's about 200,000 inmates in the federal prison system. One study estimates that roughly 2,000 of those inmates would be eligible to apply for a pardon under the new rules announced today. However, it is expected that many of those inmates would be found to be ineligible upon closer examination of their circumstances and background. The Justice Department will also be increasing the number of attorney's working in the unit that examines clemency petitions.
Back in 2010, President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act to deal with the disparities between sentencing for powder cocaine and crack cocaine convictions. Before this Act was signed the disparity was 100 to 1. After the Act was signed the disparity has been reduced to 8 to 1.
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