The United States leads the world in incarceration with more than two million individuals imprisoned. Mass incarceration has devastated families and communities, causing untold human suffering and economic loss, and placing enormous burdens on limited state resources. The vast majority of these individual are in state custody. Also, as states across the country have been reforming sentencing laws and policies, but those previously sentenced are frequently left behind if those reforms are not applied retroactively. One solution to fill those gaps is through Executive Clemency.
The NACDL/FAMM State Clemency Project
NACDL and FAMM formed the NACDL/FAMM State Clemency Project (SCP) to aid Governors in reaching their clemency goals. Building on the success as two of the founding partners in the federal Clemency Project 2014, the SCP is working with state agencies to devise the most efficient way to connect applicants to volunteers, provide essential applicant information and submit well-crafted petitions.
NACDL has member attorneys in every U.S. state and territory, as well as affiliate associations in every state, and it can draw from these experienced criminal practitioners with knowledge of each participating state to serve as advisors for volunteers. These resource attorneys enable volunteer attorneys without a criminal practice background to participate. This expands the pool of potential volunteers and provides quality control for the final petition packets. Additionally, NACDL and FAMM can leverage their relationships throughout the legal community built over a combined 85 years to draw volunteers, including small and large firms, school-based clinics, and other advocacy groups.
The Assistance the SCP can Provide
The State Clemency Project has built a centralized case management system. It will provide volunteer lawyers secure access to applicant information and empower project staff to track the status of cases. Having this infrastructure in place allows the focus to be on the applicants’ cases and supporting volunteers rather than on overhead, and it provides streamlined administrative tasks such as assignment and reporting on cases.
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State Clemency Project staff will develop a volunteer training regimen targeted at the needs and goals of each state. The training prepares the volunteers to hit the ground running on cases and is augmented with online reference materials and follow up webinars led by area experts. Volunteers will be supported throughout the process by experienced counsel. The State Clemency Project will assume the core responsibility of tracking applicants, volunteers, and case progression. Using the case management system and communication with volunteers and their firms, project staff can see who is working on each case and where in the process that case is. This gives project staff the ability to establish and enforce deadlines to ensure timely completion of the case.
In 2017, Governor Cuomo of New York announced a partnership with the NACDL/FAMM State Clemency Project to expand his Clemency Initiative and develop the necessary processes and procedures to enable volunteer lawyers through the project to help prisoners seeking clemency pursuant to the Governor’s initiative. The SCP volunteers are reviewing cases and working with Applicants to submit Applications for Executive Clemency. Attorneys of all backgrounds in good standing with the New York bar are encouraged to volunteer.
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