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The Clemency Project

Reducing Unfair Sentences

The Clemency Project

In an attempt to correct federal sentences that almost everyone in the legal field have agreed were too harsh, the Department of Justice started the Clemency Project 2014. When a defendant receives clemency under the Clemency Project, their sentence will be commuted (which means the president will lower his sentence) to a sentence they would likely receive under today’s sentencing standard. The Clemency Project will mostly help remedy what is called an 851 enhancement. This enhancement would kick in large minimum mandatory sentences for people charged with drug crimes, who had prior criminal history involving drugs. If a defendant had one prior drug charge, then an 851 enhancement would trigger a minimum mandatory 20 year sentence. If they had two prior drug convictions then the enhancement would trigger a mandatory life sentence.However not every defendant who was given an 851 enhancement will receive clemency. Even if they are sentenced only on a drug offense, a prior criminal record may disqualify them from receiving clemency. According to the Department of Justice a defendant must meet the following criteria:

  • 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(s) today
  • Have a non-violent, low-level offenders without significant ties to large-scale criminal organizations, gangs, or cartels
  • Have served at least 10 years of their sentence
  • Have no significant criminal history
  • Have demonstrated good conduct in prison
  • Have no history of violence prior to or during their current term of imprisonment