NACDL/FAMM State Clemency Project

Volunteers

Get Involved

Volunteering for The State Clemency Project will help us assist the thousands of prisoners who have asked for pro bono help. Your participation is vital in helping incarcerated individuals gaining a second chance.

Volunteer attorneys will help us in two ways;

  1. Conduct research and work with individual prisoners to help us determine whether a prisoner is eligible for executive clemency; and if so,
  2. Represent the prisoner and draft a clemency petition.

The State Clemency Project will assist volunteers by providing;

  1. On-line training materials,
  2. An in-depth reference section with resource tools that complement the training,
  3. A panel of expert Resource Counsel to answer technical, procedural, and substantive questions, and
  4. An advisory panel that will review attorney work on individual cases.

Hear what it is like to work on a clemency case

Each state initiative has unique requirements for volunteers. Please see the list of The State Clemency Project initiatives.

State Initiatives

Cannabis Justice Initative

Pursuing multiple avenues of relief for those directly impacted by a cannabis conviction and its consequences through clemency, compassionate release, expungement, and reform, NACDL has partnered with the Last Prisoner Project to launch the Cannabis Justice Initiative. The project will place these cases for pro bono assistance with private counsel and will provide training and support to the lawyers who are taking cases.

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State Initiatives

Colorado Program

The NACDL/FAMM State Clemency Project (SCP) is a volunteer initiative to support incarcerated individuals seeking sentence commutation. The SCP has been invited by Colorado Governor Jared Polis to participate in a pilot program to assist individuals in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections to prepare applications for sentence commutation to the Governor’s Executive Clemency Advisory Board. Working in partnership with the Department of Corrections, which has established internal eligibility criteria, the SCP is seeking volunteer attorneys to take on cases. You do not need to be a criminal practitioner, nor do you need have prior experience in handling clemency petitions, as the project will provide training and resources to get started.

The project needs attorneys experienced in criminal and clemency matters to serve as advisory attorneys as well as social workers, medical professionals, and others to assist volunteers in the work.

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State Initiatives

DC Compassionate Release Project

The District of Columbia Compassionate Release project is to a coalition of advocates who have come together to assist District of Columbia prisoners who are vulnerable to COVID-19 to seek release under a newly enacted District of Columbia statute. The project will place these cases for pro bono assistance with private counsel and will provide training and support to the lawyers who are taking cases. The District of Columbia, as part of its emergency response to COVID-19 amended its criminal law to permit incarcerated persons serving sentences under the D.C. Code to seek compassionate release if they meet certain criteria, including conditions that place them at high risk if they contract COVID-19. Support for this project is provided by the Greater Washington Community Foundation and Arnold Ventures LLC.

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State Initiatives

Excessive Sentence Project

The Excessive Sentence Project recruits and trains pro bono attorneys to file compassionate release motions on behalf of individuals in federal prison whose sentences are too long, either because they would receive a much lower sentences today due to intervening changes in the law or because their original sentence was simply unjust.

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State Initiatives

Jim Crow Juries: Unanimous Jury Project

The purpose of this project is to match currently incarcerated individuals convicted by non-unanimous juries with pro bono lawyers to co-counsel with Promise of Justice Initiative and assist clients in completing post-conviction relief applications associated writ applications. Having counsel to support these filings greatly increases the chances of success, and this project will help to ensure that those convicted by 10-2 or 11-1 ‘split juries’ who are without resources to afford legal representation have access to potential relief.

For more than 138 years, Louisiana courts convicted people for felony crimes even when not all jurors believed that the prosecution had proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. As a result, the State of Louisiana has sent thousands of men and women to prison for tens of thousands of years with inexcusably short deliberation times. Only Oregon and Louisiana convicted people of felony crimes with non-unanimous juries, and only in Louisiana could a judge sentence someone to life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) when a jury did not reach a unanimous verdict.

Through this project, we will research individuals convicted by a non-unanimous jury who are interested in receiving assistance and are not represented by a lawyer.  We will match those individuals with pro bono attorneys to assist them in completing their appeals. And throughout the process, PJI we will provide resources and support to the pro bono attorneys and teams. We will also track the outcomes of post-conviction relief applications submitted through this project.

Jim Crow Juries: Unanimous Jury Project is a project of the Promise of Justice Initiative, undertaken in collaboration with individual attorneys and firms offering pro bono representation.

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State Initiatives

New York Program

Governor Cuomo of New York has announced a partnership with the NACDL/FAMM State Clemency Project to expand his Clemency Initiative and develop the necessary processes and procedures to enable volunteer lawyers through the project to help prisoners seeking clemency pursuant to the Governor’s initiative.

All attorneys admitted to the New York bar are eligible to be assigned a case. Non-New York attorneys are invited to work with a New York attorney on a case.

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State Initiatives

Federal CARES Act Home Confinement and COVID-19 Project

FAMM, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, and other advocates, are currently recruiting attorneys to work on compassionate release motions for individuals on CARES Act home confinement who are in danger of being returned to prison once the President ends the  COVID-19 Emergency. Help us keep them home. They are vulnerable to serious illness or death should they contract COVID, which is much more likely in prison. And, they have been living productive lives with loved ones in the community, many for over a year.

Please join us in this historic effort to protect them.

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State Initiatives

Trial Penalty Clemency Project

As set forth in the 2018 report authored by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, in conjunction with the Foundation for Criminal Justice, entitled “The Trial Penalty: The Sixth Amendment Right to Trial on the Verge of Extinction and How to Save It,” trial by jury has declined to the point that less than 3% of state and federal criminal cases are tried to a jury. And, as set forth in the Report, many of those individuals who exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to a jury trial are being penalized for doing so.

While society is awakening to the number of wrongs embodied in the trial penalty, there are a number of individuals living the trial penalty as they serve excessively long prison sentences as a result of electing to go to trial and holding the government to its burden. The only remedy for these individuals is executive clemency. The Trial Penalty Clemency Project aims to assist those individuals by pairing Applicants with Volunteer Attorneys who will assist them in preparing a clemency petition.

Reform is needed to end the trial penalty. In the interim, this Project provides an opportunity for a second chance to those individuals who are living it.

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State Initiatives

Virginia Redemption Project

The purpose of this project is to match currently incarcerated individuals with pro bono lawyers to assist them in completing their clemency petitions. Having counsel through the clemency process greatly increases the chances of success, and this project will help to ensure that those who want to file a conditional pardon and cannot afford a lawyer have access to meaningful review. This project is open to anyone who is currently serving a Virginia state sentence for non-capital offenses, whose case has concluded (all appeals have been exhausted).

While Virginia recognizes three types of pardons, this project will initially focus only on conditional pardons, which are only available to people who are currently incarcerated. A conditional pardon is an act by the Governor to modify or end a sentence imposed by the court. The Governor only grants a conditional pardon when there is substantial evidence of extraordinary circumstances to warrant it.

Through this project, we will screen individuals who are interested in receiving assistance with a conditional pardon based on identified criteria. We will match those individuals with pro bono attorneys to assist them in completing their petition. And throughout the process, we will provide counsel and support to the pro bono attorney. We will also track the outcomes of conditional pardon petitions submitted through this project.

This project is being launched through a joint commitment and shared resources from the NACDL, ACLU of Virginia, FAMM, Justice Forward, Legal Aid Justice Center, and the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

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