Washington, DC (March 31, 2015) – Today's 22 clemency grants, including in cases in which clemency was supported by volunteer lawyers through Clemency Project 2014, indicates that the Obama Administration is beginning to deliver on its promise of a significantly increased exercise of its executive clemency power. With thousands serving draconian sentences for non-violent offenses in the nation's federal prison system, the moral imperative for the use of this constitutionally granted prerogative is apparent, particularly in those cases where changes in law or policy in the years since many of these people were sentenced mean that, if imposed today, their sentences would be substantially shorter.
"I cannot express in stronger terms how gratifying it is to see today's grants of clemency by the White House, including in cases where some of Clemency Project 2014's more than 1,500 volunteer lawyers had supported clemency," said Clemency Project 2014 Project Manager Cynthia W. Roseberry. "At the Project, I hear every day from prisoners and their loved ones who for the first time in many years have hope. For far too long, this nation went down the road of locking up non-violent offenders and throwing away the keys, without any regard for the value of these people and the damage that mass incarceration does to families, communities and to our entire society. Here at Clemency Project 2014, we have thousands of cases in various stages of review and petition preparation. Clemency Project 2014 volunteer attorneys provide this assistance free of charge to those prisoners requesting counsel. It is my fervent hope that what we have seen today is only the beginning and that the administration will make the exercise of its clemency power ever more robust."
Clemency Project 2014, an unprecedented, independent effort by the nation's bar, has brought in more than 1,500 volunteer lawyers from diverse practice backgrounds, more than 50 of the nation's largest and most prestigious law firms and law clinics, leading not-for-profit organizations, and the criminal defense bar to answer the call made last year by former Deputy Attorney General James Cole before the New York State Bar Association. Cole announced that the Obama administration would consider commuting the prison sentences of non-violent offenders who had received severe prison sentences and who, were they sentenced today, would likely have received significantly lower sentences under current sentencing law and policy. He appealed to the legal profession to provide free assistance to help identify eligible prisoners and assist them in the preparation of clemency petitions.
According to the criteria released by the Department of Justice, prisoners must be:
- currently serving a federal sentence in prison and, by operation of law, likely would have received a substantially lower sentence if convicted of the same offense(s) today;
- have a non-violent history with no significant ties to organized crime, gangs or cartels;
- have served at least 10 years;
- have no significant prior convictions;
- have demonstrated good conduct in prison; and
- have no history of violence prior to or during their current term of imprisonment.
For more information and to volunteer for Clemency Project 2014, please visit www.clemencyproject2014.org.
The American Bar Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the Federal Public and Community Defenders, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers have joined together under a working group they call Clemency Project 2014. Through the efforts of Clemency Project 2014, the participating organizations are identifying potential clemency petitioners and recruiting and training volunteer lawyers to assist them in securing clemency.
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