Printed on: April 22, 2014

U.S. clemency policies to change


WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Justice Department is broadening the criteria it will use in evaluating clemency petitions from certain federal prisoners and expects the changes to result in thousands of new applications, Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday.

The new criteria, which will be detailed later this week and are aimed at inmates serving time for nonviolent drug offenses, are intended to lead to a reduction in the nation's federal prison population and also to "ensure that those who have paid their debts have a chance to become productive citizens," Holder said in a video message.

The announcement is part of an ongoing Obama administration push to re-evaluate sentences for drug crimes that officials believe were unduly harsh and were imposed under old federal guidelines.

In December, for instance, President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of eight drug prisoners -- including six serving life sentences -- sentenced under old guidelines.