File Your Own Clemency Petition

Post Date: March 2, 2016

FAMM is receiving many questions about clemency from people who are worried that time is running out for their loved one to file for a sentence commutation before President Obama leaves office next January.

Some of your loved ones have filed for clemency directly with the Office of the Pardon Attorney. Many have filled out the survey for the Clemency Project 2014. Some of your loved ones who filled out a survey have been contacted by the Clemency Project to sign consent forms.  Of those people who returned the consent form, some have been assigned a lawyer to represent them and that lawyer has contacted them to say they are assigned to your case.

There are others who have not heard from a lawyer yet and have not been told they have representation. Even if CP2014 reached out to your loved one requesting access to their PSR in order to determine their eligibility for the program, unless you have heard affirmatively from a lawyer that they are engaging directly in your personal case, you should consider filing outside the program.  

If your loved one has not received a letter from a Clemency Project 2014 that a lawyer has been assigned to represent them, please read on.

While the Clemency Project is continuing to assign attorneys, if your loved one doesn’t yet have an attorney, we recommend they proceed in filing their own petition. It is not difficult to do and here are some pointers to help you. The prison staff is also available to answer questions.

As you write your clemency petition, keep in mind a couple of things.

  1. Petitioning for clemency is asking the President for mercy – it is not retrying a case. Your loved one needs to accept responsibility for their criminal conduct. The petition should show a genuine desire for forgiveness and explain how they have turned their life around.
  2. Keep in mind the criteria the President announced in his Clemency Initiative. The prisoner applying…
    1. is currently serving a federal sentence in prison and, by operation of law or a change in charging policy, likely would receive a substantially lower sentence if convicted of the same offense(s) today.
    2. is a non-violent, low level offender without significant ties to large scale criminal organizations, gangs or cartels
    3. has served at least 10 years of their sentence
    4. does not have a significant criminal history
    5. has demonstrated good conduct in prison
    6. has no history of violence prior to or during their term of imprisonment
  3. Include information about post-release plans (where will they live, what support will they receive from family, friends, faith community, etc., and how will they support themselves.

The Clemency Project is still recruiting lawyers and assigning them to prisoners who want their help. If your loved one files their own clemency petition and later hears from a Clemency Project lawyer, that’s fine. Your loved one should tell the lawyer they have done their own petition and then send the lawyer a copy. The lawyer can look at what they wrote and supplement it with additional supporting arguments.

Remember, it is not necessary to have a lawyer file a clemency petition. While it can be helpful, the bulk of successful clemency petitions have been filed by prisoners themselves. Don’t forget, if your loved one is turned down for clemency, they can reapply in a one year.

See this helpful guide to filing a clemency petition.

FAMM is not able to answer emails, calls, or letters about whether your loved one meets the criteria for clemency. FAMM cannot provide a lawyer or give you legal advice.