A STATE OF AN EMERGENCY HAS BEEN SIGNED BY THE GOVERNOR OF MISSOURI. GOV. Jay Nixon signed a “Declaration Order” to place boots on the ground in Ferguson after two days of civil unrest as a protest of an officer firing 6 shots into the body of an unarmed Michael Brown. A State of Emergency literally means the National Guard will be joining the ranks of the turmoil unfolding on the streets. It is unsure why Jay Nixon, Governor, has deployed the troops to enter in the city, without first addressing the citizens of the state he currently oversees. We all remember how long it took for any type of aid to touch down in New Orleans. The military has been called in without hesitation, but the justice for the officer isn’t swift. That by and large is the reason there is protest and civil unrest.

Let’s get into this topic a bit deeper. First I will explain what a State of Emergency is: A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that announces that the country is in a state of emergency.  This means that the government can suspend and/or change some functions of the executive, the legislative and or the judiciary during this period of time. It alerts citizens to change their normal behavior and orders government agencies to implement emergency plans.

For each state, the conditions required are slightly different. Overall, however, a state of emergency declaration allows state governments to streamline their operations temporarily so they can respond more quickly to events by reassigning personnel and sending vehicles, trucks and heavy equipment to areas affected by storms.

The declaration also gives governors the ability to deploy National Guard troops where needed, close state offices temporarily and work with both state and federal emergency management agencies to manage evacuation orders or restrict travel in affected areas.


Ferguson, Mo– curfew continues for the second day. People all over the world eyes are on the Racial tension building in



Ferguson MO. Riot police have taken to the streets of Ferguson to control protesters from taking their plight to the streets. This is crazy, I can’t keep up with the carnage on the streets. We have to take a look at the situation here in America and reconsider our position as leaders in the international community. Lets face it, WHITE police officers are at a point where they feel as though taking the life of a BLACK man is the thing to do. The government and other officials protect them when they act outside the constitution of their authority.

Rather than making violators accountable (rogue police) for their actions, police officer’s who take the lives of innocent people are generally placed on desk duty and in some cases placed on administrative leave…with pay. Of course given the circumstances one can’t help but empathize with the victims and the families who lose loved ones at the hand of  law enforcement officials who have sworn to protect and serve the citizens in their communities.  It is safe to say when individuals are protesting their emotions get involved and due to the fact these unprovoked acts keep recurring. Which has a lot to do with  the demonstrators getting out of hand. The media keeps saying that the individuals who are responsible for violence escalating on the streets in Ferguson.

An autopsy report demonstrates there were 6 shots fired into the body of an armed teenager Michael Brown. A second autopsy is



expected to be performed to investigate the matter closer. In all actuality, the second autopsy was ordered to give public and local officials more time to make up excuses for not taking the murdering cop into custody. If you take a look at the entry point of the gun shots, the murdering cop aimed center mass with the intent to kill and not to control the suspect. Several reports state the teenager was unarmed and the heavy handed cop acted with malice intent. I typically try to report the news and stay neutral, but these escalating events are making it extremely hard to exercise patience. INJUSTICE AND CIVIL UNREST GO HAND-N-HAND! How do you expect civility when law officials blatantly disregard the rule of law.

In retrospect, the colonist here in North America felt the British rule was unjust and that there was no representation. Protesters raised up arms against the British and after bloodshed and thousands of innocent lives being caught in the cross fire–the United States were formed. The Declaration of Independence states that our government derives its just – or lawful – powers from the “consent of the governed.” The underlying principle implied in the Declaration was that “We the People” are the true and rightful government of the United States, and as Abraham Lincoln declared in his Gettysburg Address, “government of the people by the people and for the



people shall not perish from this earth.” Elected and appointed officials are managers selected to work on our behalf in order to accomplish our collective will. We do not, however, elect them to dictate what our will is, or should be.

However, in the event that our government becomes one consisting of rulers rather than representatives, our government determined over 200 years ago what our course of action should be.

Ashanti Sample 1

ASHANTI PUBLISHING GROUP http://www.ashantipublishinggroup.com


BARNES AND NOBLE | The Marketplace at Palmdale, 39227 10th Street West, Palmdale, CA 93551.

Aspiring writers are strongly encouraged to bring their best manuscript(s) for an informal evaluation. Ashanti Publishing Group is looking for writer’s with a desire to write stories people are interested in reading and as an added bonus for attending the book signing, some lucky reader will qualify for a drawing to have their name placed in Antonio Moses’s next Hood Fiction entitled: “WHAT GOES AROUND”

Which is due out in book stores in the fall of 2014!





OCTOBER 3, 2014

Friday Evening from 6:00 pm until 8:00 pm

Antonio Moses, Author of RITA (The Sole Survivor) is an African American Urban Fiction book writer dedicated to changing the stereo-types associated with “Street Literature”. 5% of his 2014 profits from his book are being donated to under privileged inner city children. Antonio Moses is committed to offering a contract to an aspiring writer if RITA (The Sole Survivor) sells more than 100,000 copies. Serious writers are encouraged to bring their manuscripts for consideration of publication.

Readers of his books have expressed great enthusiasm for the project and an author page has been set up an external website www.antoniomoses.com to raise more money for his project.

“I couldn’t put RITA (The Sole Survivor) down when I started reading it and I’m so pleased Antonio is African American literature – He’s making such a difference.” – The current owner for Blende Magazine out of Atlanta, Georgia.

Antonio Moses became fascinated with Urban Fiction after reading some of the bestseller’s and wanted to dedicate his talents in taking the industry to the next level. His book RITA (The Sole Survivor) is a fictional story based on his real life experiences growing up in one of the projects in Atlanta, GA. Read more at http://www.antoniomoses.com



Shocking footage of police officer assaulting a family.

Trigger happy cops putting in work!


POLICE BRUTALITY! POLICE BRUTALITY! POLICE BRUTALITY! The sad fact that there isn’t enough time in a day for



me to post ALL of the Police Brutality cases popping up all over the country is a damn shame!  For lack of a better word, I am PISSED OFF! We have criminals wearing police uniforms terrorizing the streets. With your permission I am going to free-style on this one. So please excuse me if I don’t use references or draw on statistics. This is raw footage and want to play it unedited. This is Maestro and I pray this post is not taken out of context. But with the way things are unfolding in this country, IT IS WHAT IT IS! For a long time in the early 80’s after the “War on Drugs” was declared, any young African American male driving an expensive car fit the description of a “Drug Dealer”. I remember friends and family members being pulled over in the hood for “Driving Black”. Law enforcement were debriefed and told what to look for as suspicious activity and the 4th Amendment was tossed out the window. As a result, hundreds of thousands of young black African Americans were illegally targets and no one cared.

After the horrific events of 911 unfolded, politicians worked diligently to find someone to point the blame and make public enemy number one. No long thereafter “HOME LAND SECURITY” was sanctioned and with it, profiling Middle Easterners traveling in and out of the United States. One thing the United States is good at is creating a monster to justify implementing their force and domination. What good is having the best arsenal and not having a cause to engage?  There is a saying, Not all Arab’s are terrorist but all known terrorist are Middle Easterners. This is the mentality that has festered in our society for too damn long and it’s time for reform.



Your probably asking yourself, “Maestro what does any of this have to do with all of the Police Brutality going on in our cities?” PROFILING, that’s what. This is to demonstrate how prejudice our system is and that it is in serious need of an overhaul. Police are attacking citizens in practically every state and the first thing the media says is, “You can’t judge all cops by the action of a few.” I beg to differ. What we have here is a double standard. If a citizen breaks the law, he/she has a target on their backs along with studies to support recidivism.  In our current society a felon can’t catch a break, yet the cops who go out of their way to wrongfully convict individuals make it extremely difficult to have any confidence in law enforcement.


Here in American we live in a civil society. The populace in general are law abiding citizens. Most of the people residing in



the boarders of the United States would stop if a police car signals to them and cooperate to the fullest with authorities. So why then are cops so pissed off and abusive? Is it that they are over worked and under paid? If that be the case, they should quit and find new employment. But the simple fact the office which vest the power in these unstable men, won’t handle these cases swiftly and impartially gives these offender cops a pass to act out on emotions rather than experience.

What if the citizens follow suit and start profiling officers? What would we look for…Officer’s wearing a police uniform? Guys dressed up and cruising around in police cars? Regardless of how bias this system is I am not stupid enough to think ALL police officers are bad people. But what do you think about if you’re pulled over one night on a dark and lonely road and out of nowhere police lights appear in your rear-view mirror?  With the current state of emergency at hand, the coin appears to have heads on both sides.

Written by Antonio Moses

ARCHIVES OF A BLACK MAN Written by Antonio Moses

ARCHIVES OF A BLACK MAN is a book of spoken word, essays and poetry written by an up and coming author named Antonio Moses share this video with your friends and family. It is an excerpt from book, which is one of many pieces you’ll fall in love with. (Book Trailer) Some of the best spoken word you’ll hear. Visit Antonio Moses author page at: www.antoniomoses.com and buy his book RITA (The Sole Survivor) on Ashanti Publishing Group www.ashantipublishinggroup.com  You can also drop Antonio a line and he will personally respond to you at: sales@antoniomoses.com. Let me know what you think of the proposed cover and if you have any suggestions please feel free to forward them to me. Don’t worry I have thick skin.

CALIFORNIA? ISN’T THIS THE SAME STATE RODNEY KING WAS SERIOUSLY BEATEN AND THE LA RIOTS KICKED OFF? Los Angeles: In the YOUTUBE video above Marlene Pinnock said she thought she was going to die as a California Highway Patrol officer straddled her, repeatedly punching her head, on the side of a Los Angeles freeway.

Police Brutality on Rodney King led to the LA ROITS!

Police Brutality on Rodney King led to the LA ROITS!

Police Brutality is out of control in America. What are you going to do about it? This is your man Maestro weighing in on the situation. I suppose we could debate about this issue but I refuse to pretend as though an elephant isn’t in the room. What I’ve learned in my short life, is that people generally debate about things they are not sure about. I mean, when is the last time you had an argument with someone about the sum of 2+2. The lawmakers are always pressing defendants about accepting responsibility for their wrong doing and each time an officer is involved in inappropriate behavior; in this case criminal behavior, they neither confess nor apologize for their actions.  Even after a mountain of footage was presented to a jury, the officer’s involved in the brutal attack were acquitted. Subsequently, a federal court had to retry the case to ensure Rodney King was given justice.



Classic case in point, Kathryn Johnston,  (June 26, 1914 – November 21, 2006) an elderly Atlanta Georgia woman was shot by undercover officers back in 2006. One of the officers planted marijuana in her home and were later exposed for the cover up. Again, officer’s hide behind the corporate veil or should I say, (The Shield?)

Prosecutors later said that Smith handcuffed Johnston as she was dying. Johnston was pronounced dead at the scene.  Prosecutors accused one of the officers of planting three bags of marijuana in the house as an attempted cover-up after no drugs were found in the house.   Smith later admitted to having planted the drugs.  They had been found in an unrelated case earlier that day.  Prosecutors also accused Smith of calling Alex White after the shooting and telling the informant to say he had bought crack cocaine at Johnston’s house.  According to court filings, before talking to the homicide detective, the three officers involved in the shooting got together to get their stories straight.

Johnston lived alone and had lived in that house for about 17 years.  Her house was in a crime-ridden neighborhood in west Atlanta.  People in the neighborhood speculated that the police had the wrong person, but police denied that they had the wrong house.  Neighbors and family said that Johnston kept a “rusty revolver” for self-defense; another elderly woman in her neighborhood had recently been raped, and drug dealing was common.  In the year before her murder, Johnston had installed extra locks and burglar bars.

I’m certain when Mrs. Johnston installed those burglar bars on her door she was protecting herself from the criminal element in the hood. I bet she never thought in a million years it would be the cops kicking in her door.  This list goes on and on. I’m out!

Let’s have some dialog about this, make your comments and please let me know what you think about the Police Brutality happening in American.  Share your stories with us if you know someone or witnessed Police Brutality first hand. If you like this article you can click on the tab and provide an email address. You will be given a notice anytime I post something. Remember “Justice is Blind, but Street Justice isn’t!”

Maestro Speaks

Maestro Speaks

Martial law occurs when the military or militarized law enforcement replaces civilian authorities in order to impose military rule during an emergency. Civil liberties are suspended. In the United States, a pivot point that signals  martial law is the suspension of habeas corpus – the right to a hearing on whether an imprisonment is lawful. In practice, habeas corpus means a person cannot be imprisoned without legitimate charges and due process. The U.S. Constitution recognizes the suspension of habeas corpus as an identifying feature of martial law in Article I, Section 9, “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”

Ever since Obama took over the office of the President, there have been a number of people claiming that he was so




interested in power, they could really see him taking steps to ensure that he never had to give it up. Of course, in the past, this kind of talk has been more or less confined to conspiracy theorists and others that mainstream society might consider to be, let’s just say, less than credible.

Now we already know that Obama has signed an executive order giving him the right to declare martial law any time he wants. This is a significant sign that he thinks there might be a good reason for him to need that authority. Say what you want, Obama is at least able to realize the signs of the times. He sees that the Republicans are very likely to capture the Senate, which would give them full control over both houses of Congress. This would put Obama in a very dangerous situation.

Now we already know that Obama has signed an executive order giving him the right to declare martial law any time he wants. This is a significant sign that he thinks there might be a good reason for him to need that authority. Say what you want, Obama is at least able to realize the signs of the times. He sees that the Republicans are very likely to capture the Senate, which would give them full control over both houses of Congress. This would put Obama in a very dangerous situation.

Once this happens, the question then becomes what do the Republicans do with that advantage? It is certainly possible that impeachment proceedings could be started. If this goes to its end, there is also the possibility that Obama could even be tried as a traitor to the USA. It is certainly obvious that he has no love lost for America and its traditional values and principles.

There are a number of people that have talked about this, even some within the government. Obama, being the prideful man and committed liberal that his, could simply not afford to let such a thing stop his extreme agenda. Personally, I think he feels as if no one else can accomplish or be trusted to push his agenda through and it doesn’t matter how many people oppose him…



So what does the government stand to gain by declaring Marshal Law on its own citizens? After the coming economic financial collapse, a state of world-wide martial law will be declared. Considering the current events which are in direct alignment with documented plans for totalitarian one-world government, (white paper plans published by the Tri-Lateral Commission, Council on Foreign Relations, and Club of Rome), martial law will be imposed without official dissent upon the various countries of the world. Martial law is military rule imposed upon civilian populations in a time of war or during a (sic) “State of Emergency”. The following elements can be expected to occur once the t.v. news anchors tell people not to panic, but that a State of Emergency has been declared due to the crash, and a (sic) temporary state of martial law has been declared, which will be rescinded once the State of Emergency has passed.
What the news people won’t tell you is that given the history of martial law, the suspension of such a draconian state is far more difficult to achieve than its original imposition…

1. CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS ARE ENDED-Under martial law, the U.S. Constitution is suspended and the citizens immediately lose all the protections, safeguards, and human rights guaranteed by that document. The citizens also lose every rights and privileges granted under The Bill of Rights. The constitutions of other countries will likewise be suspended with similar conditions imposed upon the citizens of those other countries.

2. CURFEW ENFORCEMENT-Anyone caught outside after curfew can be shot dead. There are no exceptions for personal emergencies unless of course, these people have some sort of official written permission or are in possession of other material which gives them a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card.

3. WRIT OF HABEUS CORPUS SUSPENDED-This means that soldiers can bust into your house, or arrest you on the street without warrants, and can throw you into prison without explanation or access to legal counsel. They can hold you there for months, even years, since there are no time limits imposed on how long you can be imprisoned.

4. PERSONAL FIREARMS WILL BE SEIZED-Armed forces can invade your home and force you to surrender any weapons you have, regardless of your constitutional right or need to bear arms for your self-defense. If you refuse, you could be shot dead in your living room, and all your possessions seized. If you’re lucky, you might just get Tasered, or butt-ended with an AK-47, to eventually wake up in a Federal Emergency Management Agency (F.E.M.A.) Detention Center with a Prison Identification Number which you will go by as a “name” instead of your old name, the one on your birth certificate.

5. PERSONAL PROPERTY CAN BE SEIZED-This means that under the excuse of “requisitioning”, soldiers can kick you out of your home, and seize both your home, all the contents inside that home, as well as any vehicles, or other items you have on your grounds. They also can claim the actual real estate of the acreage as well. If you refuse or resist in some way well….I guess you can fill in the blanks or use your imagination.

New year, new laws.

Dozens of new laws that affect you are going into effect in states across the U.S. this year.  The provisions run the gamut from tanning salons to texting and driving to a higher minimum wage.

New voter ID laws go into effect in Arkansas, Rhode Island, and Alabama on January 1.

In Colorado, a new law allowing anyone 21 and over to buy an ounce of marijuana for recreational use goes into effect.

And a new IRS rule will treat automatic tips added to large parties as taxable wages, which could mean that automatic gratuity may go away altogether.

Here’s a state-by-state look at the laws you need to know about in the very near future.


More family leave:

The state is expanding family leave rights up to six weeks if you have a new baby or to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, domestic partner, or parent. Beginning in 2014, California is extending the paid family leave rights to enable workers to care for siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and even in parents-in-law.

Higher Minimum wage:

California already has a minimum wage that is higher than the federal minimum wage: $8 instead of $7.25 nationwide. As of July 1, 2014, the state’s minimum wage goes up to $9. California’s minimum wage will go up again to $10 per hour as of Jan. 1, 2016.

Transgender grade-schoolers:

Students in kindergarten-12 grade will now have the right to choose whichever restroom or locker room they want based on their gender identity. Students will also be able to choose girls or boys sports as well.

Gun control:

The state will now begin collecting information about long gun purchases, such as shot guns or rifles. The state previously destroyed those records within five days.


Gun control:

New laws passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting will go into effect with the new year. They require high capacity magazines and assault weapons to be declared.


Devices under scrutiny:

Teens under 19 will face tougher charges if they’re charged with aggravated use of a wireless device. The infractions will now be charged as a Class 4 felony.

Other laws will ban the use of any video device that are visible to the driver while driving, not including GPS or navigation systems.


New laws will regulate the use of unmanned drones in American skies by law enforcement. The law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.


Minimum wage:

The state’s minimum wage, which is tied to inflation, increases by 15 cents to $9.10 per hour.

Social media:

Universities, colleges and employers will no longer be able to demand access to applicants’ social media accounts.


Medical marijuana will be available to people suffering from post-traumatic stress.


Tanning Salons:

The minimum age for visiting tanning salons has gone up from 16 ½ to 18 in Texas.

Liquor Tax:

Buying mixed drinks at a restaurant in Texas now comes with a 8.25 percent tax. Previously the drinks were untaxed and restaurants were taxed instead. Now restaurants will pay a lower mixed beverage tax, from 14 percent to 6.7 percent.


Voter ID:

Virginia’s new voter ID law, which requires photo identification, goes into effect in July.

ABC News’ George Sanchez and Betsy Klein contributed to this report.



Currently there have been 317 people exonerated since the approval of DNA-Testing in 1989.  As a result of the DNA-Testing  the true suspects  or perpetrators of approximately 154  exonerated case have been brought to justice and as a result the necessary criminal was apprehended and brought to justice. “…[P]ost-conviction DNA testing, more often than not, provides either inconclusive results or, in many cases, confirms the guilt of the prisoner seeking testing.   In addition, DNA testing is costly, time-consuming, and provides an additional administrative burden on already over-extended state criminal justice systems.”Keep in mind, “THE DEATH PENALTY” is still a form of justice in this country and we are finding innocent people being caught-up in the dragnet of what we consider “THE BEST LEGAL SYSTEM IN THE WORLD”.  The Innocence Project;  (www.innocenceproject.org),  is one organization out there dedicated to ensuring there is balance to the equation. There are other organizations fighting in the struggle to make sure that justice is served:

  1. PEOPLE AGAINST WRONGFUL CONVICTION (www.facebook.com/pawc4justice)
  2. THE CENTER/WRONGFUL CONVICTION BLOG (www.wrongfulconvictionsblog.org)
  3. ADVOCATES FOR WRONGFULLY CONVICTED (www.a4wc.org/opportunities.html)
  4. ORGANIZATIONS-SERVING FALSELY ACCUSED (www.spenceforensics.com)
  5. FIRST CHOICE ADVOCACY GROUP (www.firstchoiceadvocacygroup.com)


“The era of DNA testing has not ushered in a fool-proof criminal justice system.  It is not true that the problems of wrongful convictions are in the past and will not happen anymore because technology can now precisely determine guilt.  Nor is it true that the death penalty can proceed unchecked under the assumption that all the inmates on death row have had ample opportunity for DNA testing…

DNA exonerations represent only 12% of the total list of 116 cases.  In 88% of the cases, attorneys and courts had to rely on other forms of evidence…

Many states have not passed legislation guaranteeing the right to DNA testing.  Even where this right is protected by statute, such as in Texas, there are stringent limits on its use and inmates have been refused testing where the results might have affected the death sentence, even if not the determination of their guilt.

…Shouldn’t DNA testing ensure that only the guilty are being convicted and sentenced to death?  This is not the case because most murders do not involve the exchange of bodily materials containing DNA evidence…Wrongful convictions will continue to occur as long as our criminal justice system utilizes human actors.

When newly tested DNA evidence is presented after an inmate has been convicted and sentenced to death, it is usually checked and rechecked before that inmate is ever set free. However, it appears that the same reliability cannot be attributed to the pre-trial DNA testing that can often result in a conviction and a death sentence.  Recent scandals from crime labs in many parts of the country have exposed the risk of wrongful convictions that shoddy forensic work can bring.

The performance of pre-trial DNA testing is not always a reliable source of forensic information.  If evidence is



contaminated at the scene of the crime, if the police are not skilled in the collection of such evidence, if the police lab that performs the testing is unqualified to render reliable results, or if the state’s expert is incompetent or dishonest, then evidence presented under the veil of scientific certainty becomes the very source of misinformation leading to mistake.”

I don’t know about you but the last thing in the world I want to do is to be judged my twelve in a system where the freedom of a man rest entirely on the depth of the attorney you hire rather than your innocence.  This is Maestro and as long as there are people out there being wrongly accused, I’ll be here lobbying for STREET JUSTICE!

Maestro Speaks

Maestro Speaks

Deputy Attorney General James Cole announced that the department would broaden the criteria for clemency, a move that is expected to lead to thousands of prisoners — most serving drug sentences — filing applications to President Barack Obama seeking to commute their sentences.

The changes are part of a broader effort by the Obama administration to modify sentencing laws, allowing for use of rehabilitation and other alternatives to deal with non-violent drug offenders and those who previously faced tough mandatory minimum sentences.

Attorney General Eric Holder previewed some of the changes Monday by announcing plans to assign more lawyers to handle an anticipated flood of clemency requests.

imagesClemency changes to free drug offenders

images (1)Obama commutes 8 crack cocaine cases

images (2)Obama commutes 8 crack sentences

Crack cocaine at heart of once-common sentencing disparity

“We are launching this clemency initiative in order to quickly and effectively identify appropriate candidates, candidates who have a clean prison record, do not present a threat to public safety, and were sentenced under out-of-date laws that have since been changed, and are no longer seen as appropriate,” Cole said at a news conference.

The clemency changes would be open to prisoners who have met a set of specific conditions: they must be low-level, non-violent offenders without a significant criminal history and must be serving a federal sentence that would likely be shorter if they were convicted today. They must have served at least 10 years of their sentence and have demonstrated good conduct in prison, with no history of violence before or during their prison term.

The pending changes are the latest step in an ongoing effort Holder calls “Smart on Crime,” which also seeks to remedy the once-common wide disparity in sentences handed down over powder versus crack cocaine, based on guidelines first enacted by Congress more than 25 years ago.

Earlier: Eric Holder seeks to cut mandatory minimum drug sentences

Of the more than 200,000 inmates in the federal prison system, some estimates show the new clemency criteria could apply to about 2,000 prisoners. But the number is likely to fall to perhaps hundreds after government lawyers review the applications.

The Justice Department says it doesn’t know how many people will end up qualifying because it depends on the applications and how they fit the new criteria. The President has final authority to decide who gets clemency.

Obama has been criticized by some civil rights groups for being stingy with his pardons and commutations. But many praised the Justice Department’s decision as a good initial step, including a coalition of groups working on sentencing guidelines.

The announcement “marks the beginning of the end of the age of mass incarceration,” said Jerry Cox, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “We must seize this historic opportunity to start the process of remedying decades of cruel and unnecessarily harsh sentencing policies.”

Cole also announced the appointment of Deborah Leff to lead the department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney, which has come under fire for being slow to review a backlog of applications.

Cole said the department was setting up an online application system and working with pro-bono attorneys who will assist prisoners in their applications.

Mary Price, general counsel for the group Families Against Mandatory Minimums, which advocates for changes to drug sentencing laws, welcomed Cole’s announcement. “The doors of the Office of the Pardon Attorney have been closed to petitioners for too long. This announcement signals a truly welcome change; the culture of ‘no’ that has dominated that office is being transformed,” she said.

The push to relax sentencing laws has the support of some conservative Republican lawmakers, who believe it is a way to reduce spending on federal prisons and to use alternatives to incarceration to deal with drug problems. However, lawmakers want the changes to be made through Congress rather than through the president’s executive power.

“I hope President Obama is not seeking to change sentencing policy unilaterally. Congress, not the President, has authority to make sentencing policy. He should continue to work with Congress rather than once again going it alone, and I’m willing to work with the President on these issues.” Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said this week.

Cole, in his remarks Wednesday, said the issue is one of fairness. “Older, stringent punishments that are out of line with sentences imposed under today’s laws erode people’s confidence in our criminal justice system, and I am confident that this initiative will go far to promote the most fundamental of American ideals — equal justice under law,” Cole said.

Three years ago, Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act to address the larger issue of drug sentencing disparities. Sentencing guidelines provided for a 100-to-1 ratio between the penalties for crack cocaine offenses versus those for powdered cocaine, but the fair sentencing law reduced the disparity to 18-to-1.


The U.S. Sentencing Commission recently voted to apply reduced drug penalties retroactively to over 46,000 people serving excessive sentences for federal drug offenses — potentially reducing average prison terms by two years.

The vote reflects a historic shift in the nation’s approach to substance abuse. There’s an emerging consensus among both Republicans and Democrats that using the criminal justice system to address substance abuse is both too expensive and doesn’t work in terms of promoting public safety.  Policymakers of both parties are increasingly recognizing that the war on drugs has come at a ruinous cost for all Americans, but particularly for communities of color.