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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Clemency Project 2014 is excited to announce that more than 20,000 federal prisoners have returned surveys seeking pro bono representation in the clemency process. Over the course of the next 30 days, the Project will begin to forward survey responses to trained lawyers who will help the Project assess whether they meet the Justice Department’s clemency criteria and, if so, assist them in filing clemency petitions.
In additional news, the Project conducted training July 15-16 for over 550 attorneys from the private bar from 42 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Over 500 more attorneys have accessed the training online via on-demand viewing since. The training included an overview of federal sentencing guidelines and applicable case law, as well as how to determine whether a sentence would be lower if imposed today, one of six criteria for clemency. In the near future, federal defenders, as well as additional members of the private bar, will also receive clemency training.
The project currently has over 1,000 attorneys who have volunteered to participate. Twenty large law firms have each agreed to represent at least ten or more eligible prisoners, and dozens more have expressed interest.
It has been reported that the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AO) is currently assessing the extent to which Federal Defenders can participate in this historic initiative. Clemency Project 2014 hopes that the AO will fully support this important project, and believes that continuity in representation is vital. Accordingly, Federal Defenders are best positioned to assist their current or former clients. In any event, Clemency Project 2014 is confident that the nation’s bar will ensure that every clemency initiative-eligible prisoner who requests counsel will have access to a skilled advocate.
Training also addressed all of the criteria announced by the Department of Justice. For candidates to be eligible for clemency under this initiative, they must be:
- serving a federal sentence;
- serving a sentence that, if imposed today, would be substantially shorter;
- have a non-violent history with no significant ties to organized crime, gangs or cartels;
- have served at least 10 years;
- have no significant prior convictions; and
- have demonstrated good prisoner conduct.
Clemency Project 2014 partners are pleased that the U.S. Sentencing Commission decided on July 18th to make recent drug sentencing reductions fully retroactive. This move demonstrates the widening consensus that our federal sentencing laws are excessive and in dire need of reform. Clemency Project 2014 is currently studying what impact this decision will have on the number of federal prisoners eligible for clemency under the Deputy Attorney General’s initiative.
In order to communicate more directly with media and the public, Clemency Project 2014–a working group composed of the Federal Defenders, the American Civil Liberties Union, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the American Bar Association, and National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, as well as individuals active within those organizations–will soon unveil a website through which journalists and volunteers may reach out to all the involved organizations through one contact form. In the meantime, reporters may contact The Clemency Project by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.