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Obama Commutes 58 More Drug Sentences

President Obama commuted 58 sentences today. 57 of the 58 inmates are drug offenders.

His statement is here. He called for Congress to reform unjust mandatory minimum sentences.

While I will continue to review clemency applications, only Congress can bring about the lasting changes we need to federal sentencing. That is why I am encouraged by the bipartisan efforts in Congress to reform federal sentencing laws, particularly on overly harsh mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. Because it just doesn’t make sense to require a nonviolent drug offender to serve 20 years, or in some cases, life, in prison. An excessive punishment like that doesn’t fit the crime. It’s not serving taxpayers, and it’s not making us safer.

This brings Obama's total number of commutations, to 306, which he says is more commutations than the last six presidents combined.

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DOJ Tells States to Ease ID Requirements for Ex-Inmates

The Department of Justice has issued a directive to states telling them to make it easier for those leaving prison to get ID cards. It's part of a broader new initiative to make it easier for felons leaving prison to re-enter society. The initiative is called Roadmap to Re-entry.

The AP reports: [More...]

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Parole Board Recommends Parole for Leslie van Houten

Is the 20th time the charm for former Charles Manson follower Leslie van Houten, imprisoned since 1969 for the La Bianca murders? The parole board in California today agreed to recommend she be granted parole. Although she has been a minor inmate, her prior 19 requests were denied. The final decision will be up to Gov. Jerry Brown.

I've supported her parole here on TalkLeft since 2002. [More..]

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Obama Ends Solitary for Juveniles in Federal Prisons

Here is President Obama's op-ed in today's Washington Post explaining why he has ordered the end of solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons.

Here is the Justice Department report on the effects of solitary confinement -- Obama says he adopted its recommendations. The report has 50 guiding principles. Obama writes:

The Justice Department has completed its review, and I am adopting its recommendations to reform the federal prison system. These include banning solitary confinement for juveniles and as a response to low-level infractions, expanding treatment for the mentally ill and increasing the amount of time inmates in solitary can spend outside of their cells. These steps will affect some 10,000 federal prisoners held in solitary confinement and hopefully serve as a model for state and local corrections systems. And I will direct all relevant federal agencies to review these principles and report back to me with a plan to address their use of solitary confinement.


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Giudice Leaves Prison, Downey Gets a A Pardon

Real Housewives Star Teresea Giudice, has served a year for tax fraud, and left Danbury yesterday and went home. (I guess she was able to bypass the Halfway House.)

Gov. Jerry Brown gave Robert Downey Jr. a Xmas Eve gift of a pardon.

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Obama Grants 95 Sentence Commutations, 2 Pardons

Here's the DOJ announcement about Obama's most recent sentence commutations with names and case details.

Here is Obama's statistical record on pardons and commutations, from the Office of the Pardon Attorney, updated through Dec. 4, 2015.

Here is the list of all pardons granted by Obama from 2009 through 2015.

Here is the list of all commutations granted by Obama from 2009 to 2015.

How has he compared to GW Bush? The Bush list of pardons is here, and list of commutations here.

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Pope Francis Vists Inmates

Pope Francis has concluded his visit to the U.S. It was a big success. Today, among other stops, he visited a jail in Philadelphia and met with inmates.

Pope Francis also rebuked society for not doing enough to rehabilitate prisoners. “It is painful when we see prison systems which are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain, to offer new possibilities,” the pope said, speaking in Spanish through an interpreter. “It is painful when we see people who think that only others need to be cleansed, purified, and do not recognize that their weariness, pain and wounds are also the weariness, pain and wounds of society.”

...Visiting the imprisoned is a traditional good work in the Catholic Church, one of the seven corporal works of mercy.

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Obama Commmutes 46 Drug Sentences

President Obama has issued 46 grants of clemency to drug offenders.

“These men and women were not hardened criminals. But the overwhelming majority had to be sentenced to at least 20 years,” he said, noting that in his letters to them he made sure they needed to make different choices now that they were free.”But I believe that at its heart, America’s a nation of second chances. And I believe these folks deserve their second chance.”

This isn't even on my front page of Google News, I had to search for it. Google needs a new algorythm or whatever they use to decide what's important enough for the front page and top stories.

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George Jung ("Blow") Released After 20 Years

Legendary cocaine trafficker George Jung (played by Johnny Depp in the movie "Blow") has been released from prison to a halfway house after serving almost 20 years behind bars.

Jung says on his website:

Jung was a part of the Medellin Cartel which was responsible for up to 85 percent of the cocaine smuggled into the United States. He specialized in the smuggling of cocaine from Colombia on a large scale.

Jung was first sent to the federal prison in Danbury on a marijuana case. While there, he made friends with Carlos Lehder, who along with Pablo Escobar, the Ochoa brothers and Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha (alias El Mexicano) headed up the Medellin cartel. In the movie, Jung says:

Danbury wasn't a prison, it was a crime school. I went in with a Bachelor of marijuana, came out with a Doctorate of cocaine.

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Feds Approve $54 Million for New High Security Prison

The Bureau of Prisons has announced renovations will commence on the Thomson maximum security prison in Illinois. The funding was approved in January in the Omnibus Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2014.

The "state of the art" unoccupied state prison was built in 2001 and purchased by the U.S. from Illinois as a possible place to house Guantanamo inmates when Gitmo closed. Then Congress killed the transfer of Guantanamo inmates to the U.S.

Check out the gleeful response of Illinois senator Richard Durbin:

This is the news we’ve been waiting for. The funding that the Bureau of Prisons reported to Congress today is a significant investment in the economic future of Northern Illinois,” said Durbin.


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Ohio Report on Death Row Suicide: Prison Guard Logs Falsified

Ohio Death Row Inmate Billy Slagle committed suicide on in the early morning hours of August 4, three days before his scheduled execution. An official "after action review report" publicly released yesterday finds the guards did not make their required rounds every 30 minutes as required and that the electronic logs about one guard's rounds that evening were falsified. Videos show the actual time the rounds occurred.

According to the review, DRC officer John McCollister, 30, falsely indicated on the prison's electronic log that Slagle's death row cell was checked consistently in 30-minute intervals, as required by the DRC, during the overnight shift.

The log shows rounds were conducted in the required intervals beginning at 10 p.m. Aug. 3 – when the shift began -- until about 5 a.m. Aug. 4, when Slagle's body was found hanging in the cell. The DRC review states that corrections officer Clay Putnam, 19, conducted the shift's first check on Slagle's cell at 11:20 p.m. and that he completed rounds once every hour beginning just after 2 a.m.

The actual report is available here. It concludes: [More...]

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BOP Issues New Compassionate Release Guidelines

Graphic from Human Rights Watch report

The Bureau of Prisons has issued new compassionate release guidelines. Dated August 12, 2013, they are available on the BOP website here.

The policy addresses release under both 18 U.S.C. 4205(g) and 18 U.S.C. 3582©(1)(A) (pre and post-1987 sentences).

18 U.S.C. 4205(g) was repealed effective November 1, 1987, but remains the controlling law for inmates whose offenses occurred prior to that date. For inmates whose offenses occurred on or after November 1, 1987, the applicable statute is 18 U.S.C. 3582©(1)(A).


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Lynne Stewart Hearing for Compassionate Release

Update 8/9/13: The Judge denied Lynne's request in a 25 page ruling, saying he had no authority to act without a request from BOP. If BOP reconsiders its denial and riles a request, he seems ready to grant it.

Criminal defense lawyer Lynne Stewart, serving a 10 year sentence for a terrorism related offense, is dying of cancer. The Bureau of Prisons denied her request for compassionate release. Today, the federal judge who sentenced her will hear her motion for immediate conditional release.

Her brief in support of her motion, which explains her condition and the grounds for release, is here. The Government says the judge has no authority to order her release because only the Bureau of Prisons can seek court action on a compassionate release request. (To be continued this afternoon.)

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CA Federal Court Threatens Gov. Brown With Contempt

In a strongly worded 71 page opinion, a three judge panel from the Eastern District of California has threatened California Governor Jerry Brown with contempt for failing to come up with a plan to reduce California's prison population. The court has given Brown and the state numerous chances. The Supreme Court denied Brown's appeal and he still refuses to comply.

The April 5 opinion is here. The docket with links to other court orders is here. [More...]

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CO Inmates Serving as Hospice Caregivers

The Denver Post has a moving article about Colorado's inmate Hospice program and inmates serving as caregivers.

In a prison where executioners once administered a poison cocktail to condemned men, nurses now feed morphine into the arms of the dying for their comfort. Men convicted of brutal crimes minister to the physical needs of the ill and elderly, and sometimes find redemption in the role of caretaker.

Our elderly prison population, with its increased medical costs, keeps growing exponentially. [More...]

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