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ERA 3 State Strategy End Mass Criminalization The Pardon Attorney's office is open for business!
Monday, 05 May 2014 12:00

The Pardon Attorney's office is open for business!

Written by  Julie Stewart | FAMMS

The Pardon Attorney’s office is open for business! And it has a new boss! That’s pretty much the message that the Deputy Attorney General sent today when he announced that federal prisoners whose cases match a list of criteria he released, could have their cases reviewed for clemency! FAMM has long decried how dysfunctional the Pardon Attorney’s office is, so today’s announcement is really big news and could have deep impact.

The nuts and bolts of this good news is the clemency criteria that the Deputy Attorney General released today. He said the Pardon Attorney’s office will prioritize clemency applications from prisoners who meet all of the following factors:

  • They are currently 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;
  • They are nonviolent, low-level offenders without significant ties to large scale criminal organizations, gangs or cartels;
  • They have served at least 10 years of their prison sentence;
  • They do not have a significant criminal history;
  • They have demonstrated good conduct in prison; and
  • They have no history of violence prior to or during their current term of imprisonment.

What I find most exciting about this list is that they are willing to consider prisoners who have served 10 years (instead of just those serving life sentences) and that they will consider applications from people who are serving non-drug sentences (for instance fraud or nonviolent gun offenses). We understand that 23,000 federal prisoners have already served 10 years. That doesn’t mean they meet the other five criteria, so they won’t all be granted sentence commutations. But some of them will!

The other REALLY good news is that the current Pardon Attorney, Ron Rodgers, got kicked out! He is being replaced by a fantastic woman who cares deeply about clemency, Deborah Leff. She will breathe fresh life into the stale Office of the Pardon Attorney. I couldn’t be happier about that switch!

The Bureau of Prisons will be sending prisoners information by May 2nd about how to apply for clemency and a survey form to complete if they meet the criteria. The form will then be collected by the BOP and distributed to FAMM and four other groups (known as the Clemency Project 2014). The Clemency Project 2014 will be processing most of the cases and finding pro bono attorneys for cases that seem to meet the criteria. 

If you have a loved one in prison, please do not send cases directly to FAMM. We will receive them through the survey that will be processed by the Clemency Project 2014. Also, you do not need to pay a lawyer to file a clemency petition for you. The Clemency Project 2014 will find a pro bono lawyer for your loved on if he/she fits the criteria above.

There are still many questions to be answered about this process but, for the moment, revel in the big picture – the Department of Justice wants to find people who deserve to be let out of prison! That’s unbelievable! When I started FAMM almost 23 years ago, I never would have believed this could happen. Yet, now this dramatic change that could result in liberty for prisoners who otherwise might have died in prison or at least spent decades more time there!

Here is the full text of the Deputy Attorney General’s comments - they're worth the read! 

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