DOJ announces clemency overhaul, allows release for some after 10 years

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The Justice Department moved Wednesday to significantly expand the number of people eligible for clemency, issuing new guidelines allowing certain prisoners who already have served at least 10 years behind bars to apply for release.

The initiative is part of a broader Obama administration effort to ease sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole outlined the changes, which include six separate criteria inmates must meet to be eligible, on Wednesday morning. Among the requirements is that inmates must have served at least 10 years of their federal sentence and not have a “significant criminal history.” They must be “non-violent, low-level offenders” with no significant ties to major gangs, have a record of good conduct in prison, and have no history of violence.

Finally, the process will be open to those who likely would have gotten a lesser sentence if convicted of the same offense today.

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