By Acting Pardon Attorney Robert A. Zauzmer
I am delighted that the President granted commutation of sentence today to 214 men and women who were serving excessively long federal sentences for narcotics offenses. As today’s action makes clear, this administration is committed to carrying out the priorities set forth under the Clemency Initiative, an enormous effort to correct sentences that would not be imposed today based on current sentencing laws and Department of Justice policies. This effort aligns with the department’s broader effort to ensure that limited federal resources are most appropriately used to prosecute and sanction those higher-level and violent offenders who pose a danger to our communities.
I speak for all staff members in the Office of the Pardon Attorney in expressing our pride in participating in this historic effort. With strong leadership from the President, White House Counsel W. Neil Eggleston, Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates and their staffs, we are making significant progress under the Clemency Initiative. Further, we remain profoundly grateful for the tremendously valued input from the remarkable coalition of pro bono attorneys comprising Clemency Project 2014 who have submitted numerous applications for relief on behalf of inmates.
Since I became the Acting Pardon Attorney on February 1, 2016, the office has implemented new procedures that allow for significantly greater efficiencies in reviewing the many thousands of petitions we have received, gaining the views of United States Attorneys and sentencing judges and communicating our views to the Deputy Attorney General and the White House to allow the President to make an informed decision regarding the petitions presented to him. These changes have worked and we are processing more petitions than ever before – without compromising our duty to carefully consider each petition and keep the public’s safety foremost in our recommendations.
With today’s announcement, in 2016 the President has commuted twice as many sentences as he did in all of 2015. And our work is not done. Our priority and our focus remain on processing petitions presented to us regarding drug cases, the only area in which law and practice have been considerably ameliorated in recent years. We also hope to review many of the several thousands of additional petitions that might not meet all of the criteria of the Clemency Initiative but could nevertheless satisfy traditional standards for executive commutation.
The men and women of the Office of the Pardon Attorney are proud to participate in this effort. Personally, having served as a federal prosecutor for more than 26 years, I consider it an honor to participate in the department’s sentencing reform work, which fulfills the highest mission of the Department of Justice: not only to prosecute crime and incapacitate offenders but also to do justice.