Washington, D.C. (Dec. 18, 2015) – In his first clemency grants since July, President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 95 prisoners today, 27 of whom were applicants whose petitions were supported by Clemency Project 2014.
"While it is my hope that President Obama will increase the use of his clemency power going forward, one can only be happy for each and every of today's grantees and their loved ones." said Cynthia W. Roseberry, project manager for Clemency Project 2014.
"Clemency Project 2014's unprecedented army of volunteer lawyers has been steadfast in its efforts to meet the Project's commitment to ensure that every applicant who appears to meet the criteria has a volunteer lawyer to prepare and submit a timely clemency petition. We are determined to do our part to make clemency a cornerstone of the Obama legacy."
"We take President Obama at his word that there is no ceiling on the number of commutations he will grant before leaving office. And so while we are grateful for every single commutation, there are many hundreds more who deserve relief. We urge the President to confound the skeptics by making 2016 an historic year for clemency grants," said Norman L. Reimer, executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, a partner organization in Clemency Project 2014.
Clemency Project 2014, an unprecedented, independent effort by the nation's bar, has recruited and trained nearly 4,000 volunteer lawyers from diverse practice backgrounds and completed screening of more than 25,000 of the more than 33,000 federal prisoners who have requested volunteer assistance. As of today, Clemency Project 2014 has submitted 263 petitions to the Office of the Pardon Attorney, with approximately 100 more nearing submission. The balance of the requests are at some stage of the review or drafting process. This significant progress has been made despite the myriad challenges faced by the Project, from the July 2014 decision of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to prohibit federal defenders from representing their clients in this historic effort to the difficulties involved in securing the necessary documentation to prepare a petition.
Lawyers hailing from more than 70 of the nation's largest and most prestigious law firms, 500 small firms and solo practitioners, 30 law schools and clinics, leading not-for-profit organizations, and the criminal defense bar are answering 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 would, were they sentenced today, 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:
- currently be 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;
- be non-violent, low-level offenders without significant ties to large-scale criminal organizations, gangs, or cartels;
- have served at least 10 years of their sentence;
- have no significant criminal history;
- 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.
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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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The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.