Washington, D.C. – The Justice Department today announced broad new criteria for federal drug offenders to receive clemency. On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department will re-assign dozens of attorneys to its Pardon Attorney’s Office to accommodate a projected surge of applications from current federal inmates for clemency. This decision was made despite the fact that the Department has limited resources and that clemency is “an extraordinary remedy that is rarely granted,” according to the United States Attorneys’ Manual commonly sourced by the Justice Department. This unprecedented clemency initiative will result in reduced sentences for prisoners that the Justice Department determines are “non-violent offenders,” according to the Attorney General’s statement.

In a Judiciary Committee hearing on April 8th, the Attorney General could not cite a single instance in which the Justice Department has previously solicited applications for executive clemency from a specific class of federal offenders. In fact, federal offenders who meet these new clemency criteria already benefit from reduced sentences and early release from prison through mechanisms currently in place in the federal criminal justice system.

Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) issued the following statement after Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole today announced the Justice Department’s expansion of qualifying criteria for clemency for federal offenders. The new initiative prioritizes clemency applications for offenders who meet six criteria according to the Department of Justice.

Chairman Goodlatte: “In an unprecedented move to dramatically expand the clemency process for federal drug offenders, President Obama has again demonstrated his blatant disregard for our nation’s laws and our system of checks and balances embedded in the U.S. Constitution. This new clemency initiative applies to current federal inmates, including drug offenders with prior felony convictions or drug offenders who may have possessed a firearm during the commission of their offense. Members of gangs and drug trafficking organizations could also be eligible for commutation under President Obama’s subjective determination.

“Congress is charged with establishing categories of punishments for federal crimes, not the president. This pattern of President Obama picking and choosing which laws to enforce and which to change according to his whim is an alarming trend that must stop.

“The Justice Department’s mission is to ‘enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law,’ not to re-write the laws and to endanger American communities.”