NACDL/FAMM State Clemency Project

NACDL/FAMM
State Clemency Project

Helping others reach freedom


NACDL and FAMM, backed by the FCJ, have launched the State Clemency Project and are deploying core staff and infrastructure to support clemency initiatives focusing on state inmates. The State Clemency Project will partner with governors to assist with their executive clemency goals, and develop tailored programs to best accomplish those goals.


The Over-incarceration Problem

The United States leads the world in incarceration with more than two million individuals imprisoned. Mass incarceration has devastated families and communities, causing untold human suffering and economic loss, and placing enormous burdens on limited state resources. In many cases, these sentences are imposed upon individuals whose offense did not involve violence and who pose no significant threat to public safety.

A large number of inmates serving long sentences committed the underlying offenses when they were relatively young. Science now recognizes that brain development, especially with respect to judgment and impulse control, continues until the age of 25. Excessively long sentences also ignore the fact that all people change, evolve, and gain insight as they age and mature. The obsession with lengthy terms of imprisonment denigrates the fundamental notion of human redemption. The net result is incalculable in terms of lost opportunity and economic impact on states and localities.

There is increasing evidence that the public has begun to see the folly of overreliance on incarceration, and political leaders from across the political spectrum now recognize that the criminal justice system has become a costly misuse of taxpayer resources. A number of states have launched projects to reexamine and reform their criminal justice systems.


One Answer

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), backed by the Foundation for Criminal Justice (FCJ), have launched the NACDL/FAMM State Clemency Project and are deploying core staff and infrastructure to support clemency initiatives focusing on state inmates. The State Clemency Project will partner with governors to assist with their executive clemency goals, and develop tailored programs to best accomplish those goals.

Project staff will work with state agencies to devise the most efficient way to connect applicants to volunteers, provide essential applicant information and submit well-crafted petitions.

The State Clemency Project has built a centralized case management system. It will provide volunteer lawyers secure access to applicant information and empower project staff to track the status of cases. Having this infrastructure in place allows the focus to be on the applicants’ cases and supporting volunteers rather than on overhead, and it provides streamlined administrative tasks such as assignment and reporting on cases.

NACDL has member attorneys in every U.S. state and territory, as well as affiliate associations in every state, and it can draw from these experienced criminal practitioners with knowledge of each participating state to serve as advisors for volunteers. These resource attorneys enable volunteer attorneys without a criminal practice background to participate. This expands the pool of potential volunteers and provides quality control for the final petition packets. Additionally, NACDL and FAMM can leverage their relationships throughout the legal community built over a combined 85 years to draw volunteers, including small and large firms, school based clinics, and other advocacy groups.

State Clemency Project staff will develop a volunteer training regimen targeted at the needs and goals of each state. The training prepares the volunteers to hit the ground running on cases and is augmented with online reference materials and follow up webinars led by area experts. Volunteers will be supported throughout the process by experienced counsel. The State Clemency Project will assume the core responsibility of tracking applicants, volunteers, and case progression. Using the case management system and communication with volunteers and their firms, project staff can see who is working on each case and where in the process that case is. This gives project staff the ability to establish and enforce deadlines to ensure timely completion of the case.

The State Clemency Project also recognizes that individuals leaving prison and re-entering society need support, and that state budgets have finite resources. NACDL and FAMM stand ready to augment existing re-entry programs in states. The Project will seek private support and engage local partners to develop a support infrastructure for released inmates.

Since the infrastructure and experienced staff are already in place, a state initiative can be brought online very quickly. The State Clemency Project is prepared to help governors succeed in fulfilling their executive clemency goals.