Friday, May 23, 2014

Kerik and Reimer on Clemency

Bernard B. Kerik and Norman L. Reimer, "a long-time criminal defense lawyer and a former law enforcement officer" agree that the recent announcement by the Department of Justice to "launch a robust program to promote clemency consideration for certain non-violent federal offenders" is a positive development.

Indeed, the authors think this initiative is "long overdue." And, in addition, they call for the elimination of mandatory minimums - "because they unnecessarily restrict judicial discretion, apply a cookie cutter approach to a process that should focus on the unique circumstances of the individual offender, and they imbue prosecutors with a bludgeon to extract guilty pleas from the accused, even those who are innocent."

Kerik and reimer also agree that we should "provide significant credit for good time and should couple eligibility for good time with vocational and educational training for inmates so that they can leave prison with the skills necessary to become productive members of society."

But that is not all that is required. It is not just harsh sentences that must be addressed. We must also take steps to ensure that those who have paid their debt have a meaningful opportunity to become productive members of society. We must tear down the barriers that confront those with a criminal record, often making it impossible for individuals with criminal records to obtain housing, jobs and access to opportunity. A recent study by the American Bar Association has identified more than 45,000 collateral consequences embedded in a vast network of legal barriers, debarments and disabilities. These are the silent penalties and the secret sentences that have relegated more than 65 million Americans with criminal records to second class status. 
See full editorial here.

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