Pubdate: Sat, 12 Mar 2016
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2016 The Washington Post Company
Author: Sari Horwitz


President Obama is expected to grant clemency to another group of 
drug offenders in the coming weeks, part of his ongoing effort to 
provide relief to inmates in federal prisons who were sentenced to 
harsh terms during the nation's war on drugs.

The White House will also be holding an event on March 31, called 
Life after Clemency, that will include former inmates and their 
attorneys, along with some prison reform advocates. The White House 
gathering, which is not open to the media, traces one of the 
president's centerpiece criminal-justice initiatives and will include 
a discussion on "ways to improve paths to reentry," according to the 

Spokeswomen from the White House and the Justice Department declined 
to comment.

A report released this week by the independent U.S. Sentencing 
Commission found that nearly half of offenders released from prison 
or placed on probation in 2005 were rearrested within eight years for 
either a new crime or another violation of their probation or 
release. But recidivism rates dropped to 33.8 percent for offenders 
in the lowest category, which is the one that covers most of the 
nonviolent inmates given clemency by Obama.

The study, which Patti B. Saris, chief judge for the U.S. District 
Court in Massachusetts, and chair of the commission, said was 
"groundbreaking" in its breadth and duration, also found that 
offenders released before age 21 had the highest rearrest rate, at 
67.6 percent, compared with 16 percent for those offenders older than 
60 at the time of release.

Today, prisoners 50 and older represent the fastest-growing 
population in crowded federal correctional facilities, their ranks 
having swelled by 25 percent, to nearly 31,000, from 2009 to 2013.

In spring 2014, former attorney general Eric H. Holder, who called 
mandatory minimum drug sentences "draconian," launched an initiative 
to grant clemency to certain nonviolent drug offenders in federal prison.

To qualify, prisoners had to have served at least 10 years of their 
sentence and have no significant criminal history as well as no 
connection to gangs, cartels or organized crime. They must have 
demonstrated good conduct in prison. And they also must be inmates 
who probably would have received a "substantially lower sentence" if 
convicted of the same offense today.

Obama has commuted the sentences of 184 federal inmates, including 95 
prisoners he granted clemency to in December.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom