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What is the Clemency Project 2014

Updated on August 4, 2014

The title of this project is interesting to say the least and the objective is also interesting. It is a concept which some feel is a positive and beneficial action by our justice department. We have many laws in our land and they are ever changing. The question to be asked and answered is whether the justice department has the legal authority to create a program of clemency associated with individuals serving time. The actions if generated for individuals amounts to commuting sentences of individuals who were dealt sentences sometimes mandatory sentences for specific crimes what amounts to commuting the sentences of individuals convicted in a court of law.

Our system of justice is one predicated on a system of fairness it not only must be fair but must be perceived as fair. Clemency is a term which has been used in many court cases when an individual is basically asking for mercy from the court. The clemency project is an initiative which I feel has some merit not only for the project but for the criteria a prisoner must meet before they can even be considered for a commutation of their sentence.

Many times individuals who have broken the law must face mandatory sentences for the crimes they have committed and justice must be served. Commutation of sentences by prisoners in this project has specific criteria a prisoner must meet. From looking at the information the criteria to be met appears to have the intent of making sure individuals have served an appropriate amount of time related to the crime or crimes they have committed. One of the critical aspects is these individuals are not the hard core criminals but are non-violent, low-level offenders without significant ties to large scale criminal organizations, gangs or cartels.

The criteria an individual must meet are noted below:

They are currently serving 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 non-violent, 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.

With regards to our justice system Deputy Attorney Cole made the following statement which mentioned previously said: “For our criminal justice system to be effective, it needs to not only be fair; but it also must be perceived as being fair,”

The justice department in recent days has seen some bad publicity regarding its responsibilities but any initiative to provide some fairness in our justice system should be welcomed. The clemency project has some sound basis but only if the criteria established as identified above are followed to the letter. Any individual needs to pay for the crimes they have committed but the examples and criteria above have some merit. Many laws are passed and there are many interpretations through our court system regarding their intent and as such decisions sometimes made by federal and state governments can and have changed. It makes sense to at least review individual cases in our prison population to determine if individuals have received sentences which sometimes have a mandatory sentence but those mandatory sentences have been reduced. The key is to ensure the reduction has occurred through the proper channels such as a change in the law regarding specific crimes.

The structure of our judicial system is sound but the problems we have recently seen is not the result of the system but the individuals within the system. It takes individuals to make any system work and if individuals are not doing their respective jobs the system will have problems.

I am all for improving the function of any system but processes need to be in place to properly change a system. Changes should not occur based on an opinion or philosophy but the letter of the law. There are always going to be opportunities for changing or improving any system or process they need to be legal. Each department/agency in both the state and federal government have responsibilities but actions to make changes must be coordinated with the applicable legislative body. This needs to be done to ensure the authority of the department/agency is not violated with respect to the laws they are entrusted to manage.


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