Sunday, January 22, 2017


Sunday Reflection: The Multitudes

There was a way to freedom, but many of equal merit were not chosen.

I suppose that with the conclusion of President Obama's clemency project, one of the larger tasks of my life will conclude. It began six years ago; that's when I started to advocate for a historic use of clemency to free non-violent narcotics offenders who had served very long sentences.  In the end, over 1700 did receive commutations (including 9 through the clinic at St. Thomas and another 96 through the Clemency Resource Center that Rachel Barkow and I started in New York). 

But, many who had strong cases did not get clemency.  Almost 19,000 petitions were denied (most, but not all, with justification).  Another 8,800 the Obama administration just did not get to-- there petitions were neither granted or denied, so they now flop over to the Trump administration. In that batch were some, including some of ours, that were filed last summer or earlier.  They never built a system that could process the cases they invited-- they left behind many people they gave hope to. I urged them to do it differently at the start, the middle, and the end-- not just from afar, but within the gates of the White House six times-- but I failed as an advocate to convince them of that.

To those people who never got a ruling, it must seem that the water is crashing in, and the path to freedom is gone. Those to be saved have been chosen.

Hey, a friend linked to this article about how the Obama administration handled mail. There's a line linking mail from inmates to clemency:

"Reeves decided to include inmates in his nightly reading, ending a standard practice among modern administrations of ignoring inmate mail, or forwarding it to the Justice Department without a response from the president. In 2014, when the administration rolled out a Justice Department program offering executive relief to federal prisoners serving long sentences for nonviolent drug crimes, it surprised no one in the mailroom. The president, they were happy to see, was reading the mail."
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