(Updated 4-24-14) Is Obama Ready to Grant Clemency to “Hundreds, Perhaps Thousands” of Nonviolent Drug Offenders?
Date:  04-21-2014

Clinging to hope, Barbara Scrivner is just one of thousands who await the president’s decision on clemency
(Updated 4-12-14) On April 23, 2014 Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole held a press conference to announce a new Department of Justice clemency initiative that set the criteria for prisoners seeking clemency. At his prepared remarks Cole wrote, “…the initiative is open to candidates who meet six criteria: they must be (1) inmates who are currently serving a federal sentence in prison and, by operation of law, likely would have received a substantially lower sentence if convicted of the same offense today; (2) are non-violent, low-level offenders without significant ties to large-scale criminal organizations, gangs, or cartels; (3) have served at least 10 years of their sentence; (4) do not have a significant criminal history; (5) have demonstrated good conduct in prison; and (6) have no history of violence prior to or during their current term of imprisonment."

According to Yahoo! News, “A senior administration official tells Yahoo News the president could grant clemency to "hundreds, perhaps thousands" of people locked up for nonviolent drug crimes by the time he leaves office.”

In an article published April 21,Yahoo! News gives an in depth look on one woman’s struggle to achieve clemency. Barbara Scrivner is like thousands of other nonviolent drug offenders who were handed down harsh sentences during America’s failed “war on drugs.” Scriver relates how she first applied for clemency under George W. Bush, and was denied. When Barack Obama was elected president, Scrivener was a part of the federal prison population that that believed the president understood the grave injustice of mandatory minimum sentences and would jump at the chance to correct the unfairness. But she was wrong, and attempted suicide after her application for clemency was rejected.

The Yahoo! News news article states:

Scrivner is one of those rare prisoners who nearly everyone agrees is serving too much time for her crime. She started using drugs when she was just 8 years old, and moved on to meth as a freshman in high school, when she began dating the first of a long string of drug-using boyfriends. The drugs helped her escape the fog of depression that settled over her, in part created by the confused anguish she felt about being sexually abused as a child. By the time she was 20, she had been busted and served time in state prison for possessing meth — twice. That's when she met her husband, a heroin addict and meth dealer who became her downfall. When his drug ring was broken up by the feds, Scrivner refused to testify against him or any other members. She was prosecuted for conspiracy and slammed with a 30-year mandatory minimum, despite her minor role as an occasional helper to her husband.

The judge who sentenced her to 30 years said his hands were tied. He was forced to lock her up for that long because of a now-defunct mandatory minimum-sentencing regime. If he heard her case today, he'd give her 10 or 15 years, he's said. The prosecutors in the Portland, Ore., office that charged her agreed that if she were prosecuted today, she'd almost certainly get a sentence shorter than the 20 years she's already served.

Read the full Yahoo! News article here.