Federal Sentence in Prison: Clemency Initiative


On April 23, 2014, former Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole announced the Department’s initiative to encourage qualified federal inmates to petition to have their sentences commuted, or reduced, by the President of the United States.

Under the new initiative, the Department will prioritize clemency applications from inmates who meet all of the following factors:

  • They are currently serving a federal sentence in prison and, by operation of law, likely would have received a substantially lower sentence if convicted of the same offense(s) today;
  • They are non-violent, low-level offenders without significant ties to large scale criminal organizations, gangs or cartels;
  • They have served at least 10 years of their prison sentence;
  • They do not have a significant criminal history;
  • They have demonstrated good conduct in prison; and
  • They have no history of violence prior to or during their current term of imprisonment.

Read more about who is qualified to apply for commutation under the new criteria.

The Office of the Pardon Attorney (“PARDON’) worked in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to facilitate the initiative. In addition, the Clemency Project 2014 (a non-government affiliated organization composed of the American Bar Association, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Federal Defenders, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Families Against Mandatory Minimums, as well as individuals active within those organizations and other lawyers wishing to participate in this volunteer effort) helped to quickly and effectively identify appropriate candidates for the initiative.

On October 19, 2015, Clemency Project 2014 (CP2014) stopped accepting requests for the assistance of outside counsel through their organization. PARDON was notified that if applications were received by CP2014 prior to the cutoff date, they would review requests for assistance and connect those whose cases appear to meet the described Clemency Initiative criteria with Federal Defenders or volunteer attorneys trained in the sentence commutation process. However, if an inmate had not received a response from CP2014 and wanted to apply for commutation of sentence directly with PARDON, they were instructed to submit their application with or without the assistance of counsel. Inmates who appeared to meet the six criteria were offered the assistance of an experienced pro bono attorney through CP2014 in preparing his or her application for clemency. CP2014 was not an office, board, division, or component of the Department of Justice and was solely responsible for any recommendations and determinations of appropriate representation assignments through its organization. Public inquiries related to CP2014 or pro bono attorney assignments within the organization were directed to them via email to [email protected]

Inmates who applied for clemency pro se (representing one’s self) were instructed to request that BOP staff submit their petition along with the required documentation from the inmate’s central file to PARDON. An inmate who elected to be represented by counsel in filing for commutation was instructed to consult with his or her attorney instead of contacting PARDON on their own.

Download a copy of the pardon application from here: Application for Gubernatorial Pardon

NOTE:  For an Overview or additional information on this process, please visit:



email: [email protected]

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