Dismayed at a massive prison population and the continued socio-economic effects of having large sections of the population incarcerated for minor drug offenses, the federal administration is continuing a series of initiatives to reduce prison populations and help more prisoners become eligible for shorter sentences.

New rules announced by the Department of Justice will ensure that more federal prisoners are eligible for clemency. The Department of Justice estimates of thousands of prisoners currently serving drug sentences will be able to file applications, seeking clemency. Under clemency laws, the President can decide to commute the sentences of certain offenders, or even pardon them altogether.

The Department of Justice has also announced other efforts, including the reduction of sentences for persons convicted of certain types of nonviolent drug offenses. The federal administration is also moving forward in favor of rehabilitation and therapy as alternatives to prison incarceration for persons accused of nonviolent drug offenders. Earlier, these persons were subjected to sentencing guidelines that resulted in many years behind bars.

With these measures, the White House is simply following what the American public wants. Several studies released recently have indicated that the American public is no longer in favor of widespread and mandatory incarceration for persons who have been accused of minor or nonviolent drug offenses. A recent study recently released by the Pew Research Center also found that the American public is increasingly in favor of therapy and rehabilitation, especially for persons convicted of heroin and cocaine-related crimes. These are not offenders who are likely to be helped in any way by going through the prison system. What they need is immediate help for their substance abuse problem, and the system very often simply incarcerates them without any support or help for their addiction.

With the new announcement, the Justice Department has also announced plans to assign more lawyers to go through the increased number of clemency requests that will now begin pouring in under the new guidelines. With the new initiative, more numbers of candidates will be identified for possible recommendation for clemency to the president. Candidates who do not present a clear public threat, who have a good prison record, and were sentenced under older and outdated laws, could be eligible for clemency.

Will lower incarceration rates mean higher crime rates? Not necessarily. A number of different reports have debunked the theory that higher rates of incarceration keep Americans safer. The reports find that on the contrary, lower levels of incarceration can possibly lower crime rates.

One report was released by the Sentencing Project, which found that states that have implemented substantial sentencing reforms to lower the numbers of people in prison in their states, have found their prison populations drop significantly as a result of those policies. Not only that, these states, according to the Sentencing Project report were actually able to bring about a substantial drop in crime rates as a result of those policies. The report specifically mentioned three states – New Jersey, New York and California – that have implemented lenient and more enlightened sentencing policies in order to deal with crimes.

If you have been charged with a crime, speak to a Denver criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.