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U.S. to expand clemency criteria

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By The Associated Press
Monday, April 21, 2014, 6:45 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is broadening the criteria it will use in evaluating clemency petitions from certain federal prisoners and expects the changes to result in thousands of new applications, Attorney General Eric Holder said on Monday.

The criteria, which will be detailed this week and are aimed at inmates serving time for nonviolent drug offenses, are intended to lead to a reduction in the nation's federal prison population and “ensure that those who have paid their debts have a chance to become productive citizens,” Holder said.

The announcement is part of an Obama administration push to re-evaluate sentences for drug crimes that officials believe were unduly harsh and were imposed under old federal guidelines that treated convictions for crack cocaine offenses more punitively than those involving the powder form.

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