Thousands of nonviolent drug offenders now serving long sentences in federal prisons could receive clemency from President Obama under a major Department of Justice overhaul. Attorney General Eric Holder announced yesterday that "a larger field of eligible individuals" will be eligible for clemency under new guidelines and the administration is preparing for a flood of requests, reports USA Today, which notes that the move is part of a broader effort to reduce the federal prison population and correct past sentencing disparities. Holder said the White House is seeking "justice, fairness, and proportionality for deserving individuals who do not pose a threat to public safety."
Holder hinted that those eligible will include inmates sentenced for crack cocaine offenses before a 2010 law reduced what was called a racist disparity, reports Reuters. "There are still too many people in federal prison who were sentenced under the old regime and who, as a result, will have to spend far more time in prison than they would if sentenced today for exactly the same crime," he said. White House spokesman Jay Carney said he didn't want to speculate on how many inmates will qualify for clemency, but there is a "process in place that reflects the president's belief that everyone should have a fair shot under the system for consideration.'' (Read more clemency stories.)