Obama Could Pardon Hundreds of Nonviolent Drug Offenders

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) –AP

President Obama could grant clemency to hundreds and maybe even thousands of nonviolent drug offenders, a senior administration official told Yahoo News.

The scope of the new clemency initiative is so large that administration officials are preparing a series of personnel and process changes to help them manage the influx of petitions they expect Obama to approve. Among the changes is reforming the recently censured office within the Justice Department responsible for processing pardon petitions. Yahoo News has learned that the pardon attorney, Ronald Rodgers, who was criticized in a 2012 Internal watchdog report for mishandling a high-profile clemency petition, is likely to step down as part of that overhaul. Additional procedures for handling large numbers of clemency petitions could be announced as soon as this week, a senior administration official said, though it could take longer.

The Yahoo News report comes a week after White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said that Obama is looking to increase clemency applications and improve the recommendation process. The Justice Department is asking defense lawyers to help find eligible prisoners and encourage them to apply for pardons and commutations, according to The New York Times.

Obama has granted 52 of the 1,600 pardon requests he’s received since his 2008 election and 10 of the 10,000 commutation requests for reduced sentences.

Attorney General Eric Holder also announced today that new guidelines for clemency consideration will be released by the Justice Department later this week. With the larger field of applicants, thousands of drug offenders could become eligible for pardon or commutation, Holder said in a video.

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