Thursday, May 19, 2016

Taifa and Osler: Clinton, Sanders, Congress and Clemency

Nkechi Taifa and Mark Osler have an editorial at the Baltimore Sun which scores critical points in the continuing public dialogue re federal executive clemency. The rhetorical landscape would be so much improved if those points were to somehow stick - permanently.

They note, for example, that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have both "rooted their appeal to black voters on promises to address the over-incarceration of federal narcotics prisoners," but their "ideas to counter over-incarceration appear solely to depend on congressional action, rather than direct executive action" (Clinton wants to slash mandatory minimum sentences and Sanders wants to reinstate the federal parole system). Significantly: Clinton and Sanders are not running for Congress.

Taifa and Osler suggest an alternative path:
 ... both candidates should pledge to vigorously use the pardon power granted to the president in the U.S. Constitution from the first month of their presidency to immediately reduce costly and unnecessary over-incarceration. What is at stake is important ... If a president — or a presidential candidate — wants to promise to make a dent in over-incarceration, he or she must have a clear commitment to the robust and consistent use of clemency. 
The editorial notes John F. Kennedy "released more than 1 percent of the federal prison population by targeting those subjected to harsh drug laws." Gerald Ford "created a special bi-partisan commission [and] granted clemency to more than 14,000 people" in a single year. And, today, the need for such action is more needed / justified than ever.
The problem now is an unwieldy bureaucratic process that features seven distinct levels of review, each a stumbling block to justice. Much of that process rambles through the Department of Justice itself. Many critics of the process have focused on a conflict of interest some feel is inherent as long as the DOJ is involved. After all, should we really expect wide-ranging mercy from the very department that over-prosecuted people in the first place? 
Thus, Clinton and Sanders should "deliver on promises that are not contingent on the actions of Congress or others" and "commit to using a more efficient process to continue and expand President Obama's initiative to free deserving candidates who were over-sentenced for drug offenses." See full editorial here.


Amyray007 said...

How about Nkechi Taifa and Mark Osler for President and VP? now that's a campaign i could get behind and vote for.

beth curtis said...

Clemency is the only way to right the injustice of our most egregious sentencing. The magnitude of the the sentencing of nonviolent drug offenders who were charged with conspiracy and went to trial is not fiscally responsible and is not just.

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