Post Date: January 6, 2014
We’re baaaack! After a nice, restful holiday break, FAMM is back to work and focused on making 2014 a year we will remember. I hope you had a peaceful holiday season.
Over the holidays, I couldn’t help but think of the families of the eight individuals that received commutations from President Obama in late December. While it would have been fantastic if they’d been released BEFORE the holidays, at least most of them will never spend another holiday season behind bars. FAMM brought Clarence Aaron’s mother, Linda, to Washington, DC a couple years ago to highlight the problems with the clemency process, and I got the chance to visit with her. I know how excited she is now to have her son coming home in a few months.
Two things about the president’s acts of clemency stood out to me. First, they were completely uncontroversial. At a time when our political leaders seem to fight about everything, it was refreshing that not one person criticized the president. Maybe they understood that everyone who received a commutation has already served at least 15 years in prison for a nonviolent offense. Isn’t that enough?
The other thing that stood out to me was how small the president’s gesture was when compared to the size of the problem. As one commentator put it, trying to reduce our overcrowded prisons by commuting just eight sentences is like “trying to bail out Lake Michigan with a paint can.” The president needs to do more, and we need Congress to pass sentencing reform.
With regard to the latter, I am happy to report that we expect the Senate Judiciary Committee to act soon on the major sentencing and prison reform bills before it. The leading proposal right now under consideration is the Smarter Sentencing Act, which would reduce the length of drug mandatory minimums, apply the Fair Sentencing Act retroactively, and enable more offenders to benefit from the current drug safety valve. We will seek your help in letting members of Congress understand the need for reform. Keep checking in with us to get the latest developments, as well as more detailed information about the legisla tion Congress is considering.
The only thing that marks the start of this new year for me is that my friend and colleague, Kevin Ring, will begin serving a prison sentence tomorrow. Watching him go through his trials, sentencing, appeals, and preparation for prison has reminded me again and again of the individual agony tens of thousands endure every year in this country as we pack our prisons. It’s unconscionable. And it makes me furious, which is why FAMM fights so hard to end America’s love affair with prison.
President and Founde