News Release

Clemency Project 2014 Well Underway and Reviewing Thousands of Federal Prisoner Applications

Washington, DC (Oct. 31, 2014) – Clemency Project 2014 is a working group composed of lawyers and advocates including the Federal Defenders, the American Civil Liberties Union, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the American Bar Association, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, as well as individuals active within those organizations. It launched in January after Deputy Attorney General James Cole asked the legal profession to provide pro bono assistance to federal prisoners who would likely have received a shorter sentenced if they had been sentenced today.

According to the criteria released by the Justice Department, 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.

Clemency Project 2014 is making significant progress in what is a tremendous and historic undertaking. As of this date:

  • 25,426 federal prisoners have submitted applications for consideration of their cases.
  • 4,864 applications are currently under attorney review to ascertain whether they meet the above criteria.
  • There are 5,024 applications with a sentence of less than ten years, which automatically disqualifies them under the Justice Department's criteria. Clemency Project will shortly be sending notices to these applicants advising that they do not meet the criteria.
  • More than 1,500 attorneys have volunteered to take on cases pro bono via Clemency Project 2014.

The above figures are rolling as prisoner applications continue to be submitted to the Project, and volunteer attorneys continue to sign up to take on cases through the Project.

"It's encouraging to see how the bar has come forward to help. We are making significant progress with ensuring that all qualified applicants get a lawyer free of charge to review their case and file a petition if they qualify," Project Manager Cynthia W. Roseberry said. "We look forward to adding more lawyers to our list of volunteers."

For more information and to volunteer for Clemency Project 2014, please visit

Clemency Project 2014 is recruiting and training attorneys on an ongoing, on demand basis on how to screen for prisoners who meet the criteria listed below and assist prisoners who meet the criteria to find lawyers to represent them. Clemency Project 2014 is reviewing requests from prisoners to determine if a prisoner has served ten years and does not have an obviously disqualifying feature (such as a crime of violence). Prisoners who appear to qualify are assigned a lawyer. That lawyer then writes to the prisoner for permission to review documents in his or her case to determine if the other criteria are met. If the criteria are met, the prisoner is assigned a lawyer to help them fill out and file a clemency petition. That might be the same lawyer who wrote to the prisoner for permission to review their documents or it might be a new one. In either event, the lawyer is writing to the prisoner to be sure they want free counsel to help them write and submit a petition for commutation.

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