Wednesday, January 07, 2015

 

"Quagmire" is not a good word to see...

… in an article about a project you care about.  Yet, Josh Gerstein's thorough Politico piece yesterday about the Clemency Project 2014 was titled Obama's Drug-Sentencing Quagmire.

It's hard to disagree with what Gerstein has to say.  Still, it's tremendously discouraging, particularly what he got from sources within the administration, who seem to uniformly downplay the importance of the Clemency Project.

Here is part of the Politico report:

While any prisoner can submit a commutation request directly to the Justice Department, some lawyers claim that the close coordination between the Clemency Project and the administration suggests that prisoners going through the project will have a faster, inside track. The attorneys say comments from project organizers have reinforced that impression.

Administration officials insist the outside groups have no official role. All applications will be reviewed by Justice Department lawyers before recommendations are sent to the White House, they say. However, officials acknowledge that trained attorneys can help prisoners submit “well-prepared” applications that will speed processing by the relatively small staff at the department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney.

But even with the controversial assistance from outside groups, so far only a trickle of applications has been submitted by those organizations to the Justice Department, sources said. None of those were among the eight approved by Obama last month, all of which came from thousands of petitions already on file with the Justice Department….

A Justice Department official denied that applications by the Clemency Project will receive special treatment.

“We’re not giving Clemency Project 2014 any special priority,” said the official, who asked not to be named. “This is not to say applications coming from the Clemency Project might not possibly be of better quality,” the official added, alluding to officials’ hope that the project can help prisoners make their best case for early release.




Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/01/barack-obama-drug-sentencing-policy-113954.html#ixzz3O6HFqGTN

Comments:
I have a three questions: what exactly is “controversial” about assistance from outside groups (I’m assuming the Clemency Project being one such group), what impact do outside groups expect to have if “only a trickle of applications has been submitted” and in that case, what makes outside groups or organizations any different than inmates taking the official petition route?
 
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