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WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Obama granted clemency today to 22 federal prisoners, including a member of Families Against Mandatory Minimums.
“We are thrilled that President Obama is making good on his promise to use the powers granted him by the Constitution to provide relief for federal prisoners serving excessively long mandatory minimum sentences,” said Julie Stewart, president and founder of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. “We hope and expect to see more commutations granted through the end of his term.”
The following FAMM member received clemency:
- Donel Marcus Clark has served over two decades of a 30-year prison sentence for participating in a nonviolent drug conspiracy, his first and only offense, during a time when his family was facing financial hardship. Desperate for money, Donel became involved in low level role in a friend’s crack conspiracy, and was eventually convicted and sentenced to 35 years (later reduced to 30) in prison—even the Assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecuted Donel believed his sentence was too harsh. During his time in prison, Donel has maintained a perfect disciplinary record, earned outstanding work reviews, taken numerous classes, and worked to maintain strong relationships with his children.
“Donel has worked meticulously on personal growth and development since the beginning of his incarceration over 20 years ago,” said Brittany K. Byrd, Clark’s attorney. “He is overwhelmed with joy at the news and looks forward to being reunited with his sons! We are extremely grateful to President Obama and hope that he continues to grant commutations to others like Donel who are serving draconian sentences for nonviolent drug crimes.”
These commutations follow a 2014 announcement by then-Deputy Attorney General James Cole that the Obama administration wanted to grant commutations to federal prisoners serving sentences that would, were they handed down today, be significantly less onerous.
FAMM has advocated clemency for federal prisoners serving excessively long mandatory minimums since its founding in 1991. And yet, clemency is simply a means of triage. No number of commutations is an adequate substitute for reforming federal mandatory minimum laws.
“I commend the president,” Stewart said, “but I’d also like to stress that the problem his actions are trying to address can’t be solved by the White House or the Department of Justice. Congress created these mandatory minimums, and Congress needs to reform them.”