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The Justice Department on Monday announced new clemency criteria, aimed at inmates who are serving time for nonviolent drug offenses. The goal is to reduce the nation’s federal prison population, the Associated Press reports.

Attorney General Eric Holder described the new criteria for evaluating clemency petitions in a video message. The new rules are expected to result in thousands of new clemency applications, he said. Clemency applications take into account the seriousness of the crime, whether the person accepts responsibility for the crime, and their behavior since they were convicted. The Justice Department also considers input from the prosecuting office.

Traditionally, most requests for pardons and sentence commutations have not been granted. President Obama only commuted one sentence during his first term. That would change under the new criteria.

“The White House has indicated it wants to consider additional clemency applications, to restore a degree of justice, fairness and proportionality for deserving individuals who do not pose a threat to public safety,” Holder said. “The Justice Department is committed to recommending as many qualified applicants as possible for reduced sentences.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which advises federal judges, recommended shorter prison sentences for most federal drug trafficking offenders. Up to 70 percent of these offenders would receive shorter prison sentences if the commission’s recommendations are not opposed by Congress.


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