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NACDL/FAMM State Clemency Project Disappointed in Small Number of Commutations in New York
The NACDL/FAMM State Clemency Project Calls on Governor Cuomo to Increase and Regularize Grants; ‘The Robust Exercise of Executive Clemency Power is Part of Meaningful Criminal Justice Reform’
WASHINGTON – The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and FAMM (formerly known as Families Against Mandatory Minimums) expressed disappointment with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for commuting the sentences of only three individuals while thousands await relief. One of the individuals whose applications were granted today were supported by volunteer attorneys through the NACDL/FAMM State Clemency Project.
In the 34 months since Governor Cuomo announced a partnership with the Project to develop the necessary processes and procedures to enable volunteer lawyers to help prisoners seeking clemency pursuant to the governor’s initiative, more than 200 attorneys from more than 60 firms and other organizations have volunteered to help secure commutations. While lawyers supported by the Project have submitted more than 120 petitions, only two (including today’s single individual) have thus far resulted in action by the governor. And several others received parole during this period through no action of the governor.
“We’re happy for the handful of people who received a much deserved second chance, but the governor’s action fails to meet the moment,” said FAMM President Kevin Ring. “While a deadly virus continues to spread in New York’s prisons and jails, and while the country reflects on how racial inequity has led to disparities in our criminal justice system, our elected leaders need to do more to ensure justice for all. We urge Governor Cuomo will use his clemency authority more boldly.”
“We are at an inflection point at which so much repairing of our criminal justice system is possible,” said NACDL Executive Director Norman L. Reimer. “While any exercise of executive clemency power to reduce lengthy sentences for deserving individuals is welcome and to be applauded, Governor Cuomo must embrace that the robust exercise of executive clemency power is part of the meaningful criminal justice reform millions of Americans are clearly yearning for. With hundreds of applicants awaiting counsel, many of whom are at high risk from the COVID-19 virus, we need more action.”
The NACDL/FAMM State Clemency Project, which is supported by the NACDL Foundation for Criminal Justice (NFCJ) and private donors, recruits, trains, and provides support to more than 200 volunteers. The Project thanks the more than 200 volunteer attorneys who have contributed thousands of hours of time, pro bono, to assist individuals seeking early release through executive clemency.
Governor Cuomo led the nation when he announced New York as the first state partnered with the NACDL/FAMM State Clemency Project in August 2017. The partnership signaled the expansion of the Governor’s Clemency Initiative started in 2015. Since the announcement, SCP attorneys have completed the review of more than 550 cases and submitted more than 120 Applications for Executive Clemency, and more than 100 are in some state of review.
The United States leads the world in incarceration by imprisoning more than two million individuals, with well over half in state prisons. NACDL and FAMM created the NACDL/FAMM State Clemency Project as one tool to solve this problem through Executive Clemency. NACDL and FAMM bring their experience as partners on the national Clemency Project 2014 to state clemency efforts. The Project recruits, trains, and supports attorneys to identify eligible individuals serving prison terms based on criteria provided by participating state executives. The Project works with state agencies to develop protocols to connect applicants to volunteers, provide essential applicant information, and submit well-crafted applications for Executive Clemency.
FAMM is a national nonpartisan advocacy organization that promotes fair and effective criminal justice policies that safeguard taxpayer dollars and keep our communities safe. Founded in 1991, FAMM is helping transform America’s criminal justice system by uniting the voices of impacted families and individuals and elevating the issues all across the country.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL’s many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.