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More than 3,300 US inmates have sought clemency

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 3,300 federal inmates have applied since April to have their prison sentences cut short under a new Justice Department clemency initiative, according to data provided to The Associated Press. That figure represents nearly five times the number of inmates who applied for sentence commutations during the same period last year, the department says. Justice Department officials in April broadened the criteria for clemency petitions as a way to reduce the nation's bulging prison population and grant leniency to non-violent drug offenders sentenced at the height of the 1980's-era crusade against crack cocaine. To be eligible, inmates must meet a half-dozen criteria, including having already served 10 years or more of their sentence. They must also have a non-violent background, a record of good behavior in prison and be serving a sentence that, if imposed today, would likely be substantially shorter. Officials had anticipated receiving thousands of additional applications, though the expectation has always been that many of those seeking commutation would not meet the necessary criteria. The Clemency Project 2014, a coalition of defense lawyer groups and prisoner advocates, said this week that more than 20,000 federal prisoners have returned surveys seeking to have a lawyer during the clemency process. That number includes some of the inmates who have already petitioned the Justice Department for clemency, the department said. None of the petition has yet been forwarded to President Barack Obama for his approval, though lawyers are in the process of reviewing the applications to see which ones have merit,

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