FAMM Welcomes New Grants of Commutations and Pardons, Urges Broader Reform

Post Date: December 19, 2013

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Clarence Aaron

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) –FAMM founder and president Julie Stewart today welcomed the announcement that President Barack Obama has granted commutations (sentence reductions) to eight people, including FAMM members Stephanie George, Clarence Aaron, Ezell Gilbert, and Reynolds Wintersmith. FAMM has been a vocal advocate for reform of the Office of the Pardon Attorney (OPA) and for greater exercise of the president’s constitutional authority to grant clemency.

“We are excited for the families of those who were granted commutations today, and we are glad that President Obama recognized that these individuals were serving unnecessarily lengthy sentences,” said Ms. Stewart. “The bottom line, however, is that there are several thousand more where they came from.” Before today’s clemency grants, President Obama had received over 8,700 commutation requests from federal prisoners and granted only one, to the late FAMM supporter Eugenia Jennings, who served 10 years of a 22-year sentence for selling a small amount of crack cocaine. Ms. Jennings was ill with leukemia when her sentence was commuted and, after a long fight with the disease, passed away at home on October 13, 2013, surrounded by her three children.

Ms. Stewart pointed out that as welcome as clemency is, it is not the real solution to America’s prison problem, “Even if President Obama used his clemency power energetically, which he has not, he simply wouldn’t be able to commute every excessive sentence. The sentencing laws themselves are the problem. Congress needs to get moving and pass mandatory minimums sentencing reforms that save the worst prison terms for the worst offenders,” Ms. Stewart said. “We hope there will be even more commutations today, but it’s only Congress that can prevent the need for commutations tomorrow.”

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is considering broader mandatory minimum reform legislation, including S. 1410, the Smarter Sentencing Act, sponsored by Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Richard Durbin (D-IL). If passed, the bill would restore billions in law enforcement funding to the Justice Department and alleviate dangerous levels of prison overcrowding. The bill has wide bipartisan support and support from prison guards, law enforcement, prosecutors, and advocates, including FAMM. An identical version of the bill, H.R. 3382, is also pending in the U.S. House of Representatives and was sponsored by Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Raul Labrador (R-ID). 

Read President Obama’s statement and the full list of people who received commutations and pardons.

FAMM is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for fair, proportionate, and individualized sentences that fit the crime and the offender and protect the public. Learn more at www.famm.org. 

Contact:  Monica Pratt Raffanel  mpratt@famm.org; Julie Stewart  jstewart@famm.org, or Molly Gill mgill@famm.org for comments and background information on the commutees.

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