Congress can pass legislation giving judges more discretion in the sentencing of prisoners, but President Obama “also has the ability to take executive action” to commute the sentences of “low-level” drug offenders — and that’s just what he plans to do, Deputy Attorney General James Cole told the New York State Bar Association annual meeting on Thursday.”A little over a month ago, the President commuted the sentences of eight men and women who were sentenced under severe — and out of date — mandatory minimum sentencing laws,” Cole said.

“But the President’s grant of commutations for these eight individuals is only a first step. There is more to be done, because there are others like the eight who were granted clemency. There are more low-level, non-violent drug offenders who remain in prison, and who would likely have received a substantially lower sentence if convicted of precisely the same offenses today.  This is not fair, and it harms our criminal justice system.

“To help correct this, we need to identify these individuals and get well-prepared petitions into the Department of Justice. It is the Department’s goal to find additional candidates, who are similarly situated to the eight granted clemency last year, and recommend them to the President for clemency consideration.”