Getting a federal sentence commuted is rare.
When granted, it is a huge win for inmates – the punishment is wiped out, even though the conviction remains intact.
There are approximately 184,000 federal prison inmates in the United States, and during his time in office, former President Barack Obama commuted just 1,927 people.
The one federal prison in Tennessee, which happens to be located in Memphis, holds 1,364 inmates.
Chief investigative reporter Jim Spiewak analyzed how cases like that of Alice Johnson – the Memphis woman who had her sentence commuted by President Donald Trump – get from start to finish.
Spiewak found that it can take years to process, and a case may never even see the president’s desk.
The Office of the Pardon Attorney – a division of the Department of Justice – looks through inmate applications looking to get out of prison early.
The 21-page application is addressed directly to the President of the United States, but not every one gets through.
White House staff have the right to comb through the applications before sending them on to the president.
The application includes a detailed account of the offense, family history, prior residences, employment history, substance abuse, mental health history, reason for seeking the pardon, and a sworn testimony from three people describing the inmate’s character.
Federal inmates must wait five years before applying, according to the Department of Justice.
President Trump supports a reform bill, called the “First Step Plan,” that would allow some inmates to spend more time in a halfway house or home confinement.
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