Justice Department looking to give low-level drug offenders clemency

BY Justin Scuiletti  January 30, 2014 at 11:27 AM EST

The U.S. Department of Justice is starting a search for inmates convicted of low-level drug charges that President Barack Obama could release from prison early, Reuters reports.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the search is part of a new effort by the Obama administration to undo drug sentencing disparities. The New York Times reports that the government will encourage defense lawyers to recommend names to the Justice Department of non-violent inmates with “clean records” that had been convicted of low-level drug charges. In addition, Cole wanted the word to spread to inmates of their ability to apply for clemency.

“This is not fair, and it harms our criminal justice system,” said Cole, in remarks prepared for a speech to the New York State Bar Association. “To help correct this, we need to identify these individuals and get well-prepared petitions into the Department of Justice.”

Thirty percent of the Justice Department’s budget is used up by the Bureau of Prisons, the New York Times reports.