Spotlight on prisoner commutations in select federal cases

Indiana’s federal prisons are hardly distinguishable from their peer facilities across the country when it comes to this commonplace: a high percentage of the inmate population is comprised of individuals serving lengthy terms following their conviction on drug charges.

And, notably, many of those inmates are nonviolent offenders who were never previously convicted on any criminal charge. Additionally, commentators frequently point out that their transgressions were in many instances arguably minor. It is an undisputed fact that many prisoners in federal lock ups nationally are doing decades-long terms for marijuana possession and similar charges.

The Obama administration has spoken out against what it perceives as criminal justice excesses and inequity. One recent media piece refers to the president’s “long-stated view that the U.S. needs to remedy the consequences of decades of onerous sentencing requirements.”

That assessment is far more than a mere rhetorical utterance. As the above-cited article notes, Obama has reportedly commuted more federal prison sentences during his tenure “than the past nine presidents combined.”

Evidence of that predilection to act was spotlighted just last week, with the administration’s announcement that 214 inmates in federal facilities will have their sentences curtailed. Most of those individuals are behind bars on nonviolent drug crime charges.

Unquestionably, there are winds of reform pushing material changes in some basic and long-held assumptions that have long guided American criminal law policy and sentencing outcomes.

The reform debate proceeds in tandem, though, with the reality that many people continue to face harsh charges and potentially dire outcomes in drug-related and other criminal cases.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can speak to their concerns and provide knowledgeable advocacy aimed at producing an optimal result regarding the challenges they face when squared off against the criminal justice system.