Calling All Lawyers: Clemency Project
I write to ask for the assistance of lawyers of all practice backgrounds in a project that is of utmost urgency and importance: The Clemency Project.
As many of you know, I am a founding board member of the Innocence Project and I serve on the boards of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, The Drug Policy Alliance and The Legal Action Center. I have long been a crusader for justice reform and believe deeply in the concept of redemption and forgiveness. Unfortunately, America has become a land of mass incarceration, largely as a result of draconian mandatory sentencing that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of non-violent offenders imprisoned for decades, or even life.
Fortunately, there have been changes in the law that have rolled back some of the harshest sentencing practices. But, bizarrely, many of these changes are not retroactive and thus not available to those who were sentenced under the old laws. That is where the Clemency Project comes into play.
Clemency Project 2014 is a joint effort launched by the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section, the ACLU, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and many federal defenders. It was formed in response to a request from the Obama administration to provide pro bono assistance to inmates who might qualify for commutations under the criteria announced by the Department of Justice. TheProject established the infrastructure to support this pro bono effort and provides training and resources for lawyers who volunteer to help. Clemency Project 2014 has reviewed thousands of inmate requests and has submitted more than 600 petitions for clemency thus far. But there are still 2,000 cases left to be reviewed and time is running out. President Obama has already granted more commutations than the past five presidents combined and he has pledged to vastly accelerate the pace, but they need good petitions to do so! This initiative that presents a once in a lifetime opportunity for lawyers to reverse the ravages of the harsh sentencing policies that have ruined the lives of so many. There are countless inmates who can benefit from this program, but they need lawyers to help and they need them now.
To volunteer, simply register with the project at: https://clemencyproject2014.org/training. Please note in the comment box on the survey that you were referred by Jason Flom. In only five to ten hours of your time, you will help a human being regain his freedom. As society awakens to the tragedy that resulted from the draconian sentencing practices of the past few decades, it would be unconscionable to leave behind those whose prison terms would be less if they were sentenced under current law. The opportunity to restore a person to freedom is an invaluable gift – both for the liberated and the liberator.