On Wednesday, President Obama commuted the sentences of 61 federal inmates. In 2014, Attorney General Eric H. Holder launched a clemency initiative to grant clemency to certain nonviolent drug offenders in federal prison. For years, critics of our broken system of criminal justice have called for an end of excessive sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders.
Over the last 30 years, the federal prison system exploded from about 30,000 prisoners to over 200,000. Almost 50% of the federal inmates were drug offenders, convicted of nonviolent offenses. Draconian drug sentencing, even for first time offenders, was a major factor creating our federal, state, and local incarceration crisis. The statistics speak for themselves. The United States has 25% of the world’s inmates, but only 5% of the world’s population. We have almost 2.2 million inmates imprisoned in our local, state, and federal prisons and jails.
In 2015, The Obama administration proposed early release of 6,000 federal inmates. This nationwide release started in November, 2015. To be considered for clemency, inmates had to serve at least 10 years of their sentence, have no significant criminal history, and no connection to gangs, cartels or organized crime. The prisoners had to have a record of good conduct in prison. Additionally, the inmates probably would have received a “substantially lower sentence” if convicted of the same offense under present laws.
One of the 61 inmates granted early release was Byron McDade. He received a 27 year sentence for cocaine conspiracy. The judge who sentence Mr. McDade advocated for years for his early release. U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman stated that McDade’s sentence was “disproportionate” to his crime. The judge indicated that he had no discretion when sentencing McDade because of mandatory sentencing guidelines in effect in 2002. Judge Friedman had written to the Bureau of Prisons and the White House requesting the reduction of Mr. McDade’s sentence to 15 years. The judge finally received his answer this week, when President Obama commuted Mr. McDade’s sentence.
By: Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com