clemency

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U.S.: President Obama Grants Clemency To 95 People

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Clemencies Come As Congress Looks More Likely Than Ever To Pass Sentencing Reform

Drug Policy Alliance: The President Is Acting; Congress Must Step Up Too

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

President Barack Obama on Friday commuted the sentences of 95 people incarcerated in federal prison for drug offenses. This follows the commutation of 45 people in July, 22 people in March, and 8 people in December of 2014. All of those who received commutations on Friday were serving time in prison for nonviolent drug offenses.

In taking this step, the President has now issued 170 commutations, the vast majority to non-violent offenders sentenced for drug law violations under draconian sentencing laws. President Obama has been under significant public pressure from advocacy groups and family members of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses who are serving long, mandatory minimum sentences.

Two marijuana lifers were among those whose sentences were commuted by the President on Friday.

U.S.: President Obama Grants Clemency To 46; Will Push For Criminal Justice Reform

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Obama to Address Mass Incarceration at NAACP Convention Tuesday and Become First President to Visit a Prison on Thursday

"I believe at its heart, America is a land of second chances." ~ President Barack Obama

Drug Policy Alliance: We Can’t End Mass Incarceration Until We End Drug War

President Barack Obama on Monday commuted the sentences of 46 people incarcerated in federal prison. This follows the commutation of eight people incarcerated in federal prison for drug offenses in December of 2014, and 22 in March 2015. Fourteen of the people who received commutations on Monday were serving life in prison for nonviolent drug offenses.

In taking this step, the President has now issued nearly 90 commutations, the vast majority of them to non-violent offenders sentenced for drug law violations under draconian sentencing laws. President Obama has been under significant public pressure from advocacy groups and family members of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses who are serving long, mandatory minimum sentences.

"We can’t end mass incarceration until we end the drug war. The President's actions today are welcome, but we need much more action," said Michael Collins, policy manager at DPA's office of national affairs. "The public overwhelmingly supports ending the drug war and letting states decide their own drug policies. It's long past time to rectify the US's embarrassing record on mass incarceration."

U.S.: Obama Plans To Free Scores of Nonviolent Drug Prisoners

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Aides expect President Barack Obama, sometime in the coming weeks, to issue orders freeing dozens of federal prisoners locked up for nonviolent drug offenses. With the stroke of his pen, the President will likely commute more sentences at one time than has been done in half a century, since the days of LBJ.

Flexing his clemency power is part of a bigger effort by the President to correct what he sees as the excesses of the "tough on crime" crowd, where politicians threw away the key even for minor criminals, reports Peter Baker at The New York times. With many Democrats and even Republicans now admitting the nation went too far, Obama holds the power to make a difference, especially for many young minority males who are disproportionately affected by biased enforcement of the drug laws.

The total number of sentence commutations by Obama may surpass 80 in the coming weeks, but more than 30,000 federal inmates have come forward after his administration's call for clemency applications. A slow-as-molasses review process has advanced only a few of those, and just a tiny fraction have reached the President's desk for a signature.

Louisiana: Governor Denies Clemency To Man Serving 13 Years For 2 Joints

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal recently denied a clemency request from Bernard Noble, a man serving 13 years for possessing two joints.

The reason behind the denial was the Noble had not yet served 10 years in prison, reports Phillip Smith at AlterNet.

Noble's sentence is a prime example of the harsh nature of the marijuana laws in many parts of the country, according to Tony Papa at AlterNet.

"As someone who was sentenced to life in prison for a first time non-violent drug crime I know how important second chances are," Papa said. "In 1997 after serving 12 years I was granted executive clemency by New York Governor George Pataki."

"But in the case of Bernard Noble it seems that Louisiana's Governor Jindal has chosen not to show the compassion that our President has shown and instead ignores the injustice of Noble's case while he rots away in prison for 13 years for the possession of two joints," Papa said.

Under Louisiana law, possession of up to 60 pounds of marijuana is punishable by six months in jail on a first offense, up to five years in prison for a second offense, and up to 20 years in prison for a third offense. Third-time offenders are not eligible for probation.

U.S.: Shocked Over Silk Road Founder's Life Sentence? These Lifers Did Far Less

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Social media erupted in shock and outrage last Friday when federal Judge Katherine Forrest sentenced Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht to Life Without the Possibility of Parole for founding and operating Silk Road’s Bitcoin funded drug market. The bulk of the comments about the verdict ran along the lines of “How can a nonviolent computer person get a life sentence when even murderers don’t serve that long?” Or, “If he was no different than any other drug dealer, why give him life?”

These sentiments offer proof of what the CAN-DO Foundation (Clemency for All Nonviolent Drug Offenders), has been saying for years -- the public is woefully ill informed regarding our federal sentencing policy for drug offenders. Even minor players regularly receive life without parole (LWOP) sentences for doing FAR less than what Ulbricht did in running a billion-dollar, anonymous drug black market that made buying illegal drugs almost as easy as making an Amazon.com purchase.

CAN-DO officers, who work to support clemency efforts for prisoners serving LWOP for victimless marijuana-only conspiracy offenses, say that life sentences for nonviolent drug crimes have been going on in the USA for decades and are still a relatively common practice.

Some of the men the CAN-DO Foundation works with had little to no involvement in the actual crime that earned them their life sentences. For instance, Craig Cesal, a first time offender, did nothing more than repair the trucks that had been used to haul marijuana after the smugglers left them abandoned and in disrepair.

California: Medical Marijuana Prisoner Dr. Marion "Mollie" Fry Has A Release Date!

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Medical cannabis freedom fighter Dr. Marion "Mollie" Fry, 58, who was incarcerated on May 2, 2011 after more than six years of litigation and three years of appeals, and sentenced to five years in federal prison for "manufacturing and distributing marijuana" in California, a medically legal state, has finally learned of her release date -- and it's Tuesday, March 31, 2015, according to the website Can-Do Justice Through Clemency.

At the time of the raid on her family home, she was growing, along with her husband, Dale Schaefer, 34 plants in a small greenhouse on her rural property just north of Sacramento, medicating from a double mastectomy and subsequent chemotherapy treatments. She was also shearing her harvest with needful patients at no charge.

"We weren't selling the medical cannabis to my patients," Dr. Fry said. "We had staff and were charging $10 for delivery only, and that's a common practice today."

According to Schafer, the couple had never grown more than 44 plants in a given year -- well below the 99 plant limit set forth by the State of California for medical use -- and never sold a leaf. But under a little known facet of federal law, more than 100 plans grown in a five-year period -- accumulatively -- is cause for a mandatory five-year sentence.

Louisiana: Rally In New Orleans To Call For Clemency For Man Serving 13 Years For Marijuana Possession

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Criminal justice stakeholders, New Orleans city Council members, sentencing reform advocates, community activists, concerned citizens, friends and family will gather on Saturday, March 7, to rally support for clemency for Bernard Noble, currently serving 13.3 years for 2.8 grams for marijuana.

Noble, a 48-year old father of seven, was arrested while riding his bike when officers discovered 2.8 grams of marijuana, the equivalent of two to three marijuana cigarettes. Characterizing Noble as “exceptional,” two Orleans Parish Criminal District Court judges departed from the mandatory minimal sentence stating “Mr. Noble’s inevitable incarceration will be a greater punishment for his children than for himself,” and Noble’s “particular circumstance is the rare exceptional situation and does not represent the type of individual contemplated by the legislature when assigning sentences.”

Using simple possession convictions from 1991 and 2003, the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office charged Noble under the habitual offender law and sought the mandatory minimum sentence despite the trail judges’ disapproval and disagreement with the length of punishment. Trial judges twice departed from sentencing Noble to the state requested mandatory minimum of 13 years and four months and sentenced him to 5 years.

U.S.: Award-Winning Filmmaker to Discuss Drug War, Mass Incarceration with Drug Policy Expert

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Eugene Jarecki, Award-Winning Filmmaker, and Drug Policy Alliance’s asha bandele Discuss Impact of The House I Live In and the Next Steps to Take in Ending the Drug War and Mass Incarceration

Eugene Jarecki, the award-winning filmmaker and director of the The House I Live In, on Monday will join the Drug Policy Alliance’s asha bandele for a discussion on the film’s impact. DPA says its quarterly town hall-style conference calls are designed to ensure that the organization is bringing before the widest audiences, the most influential members in our community and allowing for an open discussion with those who are on the ground and reforming Drug War policies.

The teleconference with Jarecki is the second in DPA's national webinar series, and follows an initial discussion which was held in March with Michelle Alexander and can be heard here. The conversation was picked up by national media including CNN, The Huffington Post, Upworthy and AlterNet.

U.S.: Obama Plans Clemency For 'Hundreds, Perhaps Thousands' Sentenced for Drug Law Violations

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Follows on Footsteps of White House’s Recent Call For Clemency Candidates

Drug Policy Alliance: Positive Step, But Comprehensive Sentencing Reform Is Needed to Prevent More Mass Injustice

A White House official has told Yahoo News that President Obama is prepared to use his pardon power to grant clemency to “hundreds, perhaps thousands” of people who have been jailed for nonviolent drug crimes.

The report said that the administration is making moves that will help it handle the increase in petitions that Mr. Obama is planning to sign off on before he leaves office. Last Tuesday, White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said Obama has directed the Justice Department to improve its clemency recommendation process and recruit more applications from convicts.

The White House’s new moves would follow in the footsteps of a January announcement that the Obama administration would taking the unprecedented step of encouraging defense lawyers to suggest inmates whom the president might let out of prison early, as part of its effort to curtail severe penalties in low-level drug cases.

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