Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Obama's Commutation Plan: Systematic. Limited. Reasonable.

Yesterday, we presented our view of the possible factors that might be considered in a grid for President Obama's commutation of sentence plan (see post here). We argued favorable recommendations might be best directed to those who:

1) are first time offenders
2) are non-violent offenders
3) committed offenses when they were relatively young
4) who would not even be in prison were they sentenced under the current sentencing guidelines for drug offenses.

We added that top priority should be given to those who meet these criterion and

5) have a respectable record of conduct in prison
6) have the support of a judge and/or 7) a federal prosecutor

Today, the Deputy Attorney General has made the administration's grid public (see full post here). It focuses on prisoners who

· likely would have received a substantially lower sentence if convicted of the same offense(s) today;
· are non-violent, low-level offenders without significant ties to large scale criminal organizations, gangs or cartels;
· have served at least 10 years of their prison sentence;
· do not have a significant criminal history;
· have demonstrated good conduct in prison; and
· have no history of violence prior to or during their current term of imprisonment.

Although no one asked us, we were clearly in tune with most of the administration's concerns. We continue to hope that the youthfulness of offenders (at the time of offense) can be considered. The role of judges and prosecutors seems unclear in the administration's plan - and that is worrisome. Surely their views will not be ignored altogether. In general, the administration's plan appears systematic and reasonable.

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