Alabama has one of the highest rates of incarceration and lifetime sentences for non-violent offenders. Now the U.S. Justice Department is urging drug offenders in Alabama and nationwide to apply for clemency. According to a report from Alabama Public Radio (APR), the Obama Administration is urging some convicted offenders in U.S. prisons to apply for clemency. The administration hopes to reduce penalties for individuals who were sentenced under tough drug laws.
Low-level and non-violent offenders should make necessary requests and ask for early release if they were harshly penalized for drug crimes. Our Birmingham criminal defense attorneys are dedicated to protecting the rights of individuals charged with drug offenses throughout the state of Alabama. We understand the harsh penalties faced by our clients and will take every step to mitigate or defeat charges in your case. In addition to representing our clients, we are dedicated to keeping our community informed about their local, state, and federal rights even after a conviction and sentencing.
In addition to the Justice Departments’ urging towards clemency, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is advancing a bill that is considered one of the biggest reforms to sentencing structures in recent decades. One of the primary reasons for this shift is to address the rising costs of incarceration. Justice Department officials have reported that 1/3 of the entire budget goes to funding inmates. The Justice Department interprets this as a weakness and means that there is less money allocated to new investigations, hiring FBI or DEA agents and other investments. Reducing the number of non-violent offenders behind bars could provide resources to local law enforcement agencies and help federal prosecutors take on bigger cases, including those that pose an actual security threat.
Reducing the number of non-violent inmates behind bars will help the federal law enforcement budget, but the administration also has a civil rights interest. For those impacted, the punishment does not fit the crime. Non-violent drug offender sentences also disproportionately impact African-American and Latino men. These reforms have already taken place in certain states nationwide.
Clemency is a legal power given to a public official, such as the president or governor to reduce the harshness of a penalty placed on a prisoner. While it is often applied in death penalty cases, clemency in this instance would be used to reduce sentences or free inmates who have been given lifetime sentences for non-violent crimes. In clemency cases, authorities act based on policies of fairness and justice. While the crimes are not forgotten or eliminated from the public record, the pardon would exempt offenders from certain punishments.
For defendants who choose to apply for clemency, the administration would be able to choose which inmates would be given freedom immediately. Sentences may be commuted or reduced. The action is likely to be taken for individuals who were convicted for nonviolent crimes and sentenced for extended terms, especially in cases involving drugs. If you are interested in applying for clemency or you are looking to protect the rights of a loved one, consult with an experienced advocate about clemency and sentencing reform in Alabama.