Saturday, February 28, 2015

16 Percent of Federal Prison Population to Obama: Set Us Free!

On Thursday (here) we noted the record number of clemency applications that have been filed with the Office of the Pardon Attorney.

Now, the Washington Post reports that more than 35,000 inmates - or 16 percent of the federal prison population - have applied for commutations of sentence! The Post suggests this "massive influx of applications" and "a complicated review process" have "slowed" the Obama administration’s "highly touted initiative to grant clemency to nonviolent offender." But, there has never been anything swift about the Obama administration when it comes to executive clemency.

The Post reports that - upon urging by the Department of Justice - applications "are now being reviewed by more than 1,000 attorneys at 323 law firms and organizations nationwide." The idea is that this pro-bono effort will result in properly filed applications by the most worth applicants. Ideally,
Candidates for clemency under the new Justice Department criteria, released in the spring, must have served at least 10 years of their sentence, have no significant criminal history and no connection to gangs, cartels or organized crime. Applicants also must be inmates who probably would have received a “substantially lower sentence” if convicted of the same offense today. 
To date, the Clemency Project — which includes Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Bar Association and Reimer’s association of criminal defense attorneys — has sent only 14 petitions to Office of the Pardon Attorney.

Mark Osler, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota says there are, indeed, "thousands" of inmates worthy of clemency. He also says it would be an "injustice" if the Obama administration were to end "with them in prison." Osler says, "This is one of the major justice issues of our time.” See story here.

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