NACDL/FAMM State Clemency Project


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

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

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.

An introduction from Steven Logan

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State Initiatives

Federal 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, social workers, and medical professionals to work on compassionate release motions for prisoners serving federal sentences most vulnerable to COVID-19: the elderly and chronically ill. If you are available to assist in this historic effort to protect our most vulnerable populations in federal prison.

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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 are most at risk of illness from COVID-19 and who 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. As a result of the settlement agreement in Whorley, et al. v. Northam, et al., the Governor and Secretary of the Commonwealth agree to prioritize conditional pardons and to actively identify and expedite consideration of petitions that reference medical concerns in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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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State Initiatives

Criminalization of the Ballot Box

The right to vote is essential to democracy. In recent years overly zealous prosecutors have used arcane provisions of voting law to intimidate voters and prospective voters. These practices have been especially prevalent in several states. It is essential that prosecutions designed to criminalize the ballot box are met with vigorous defense advocacy to challenge the application of these statutes on constitutional, statutory, and factual grounds. This program seeks to elevate defense advocacy in this area by providing training on general principles applicable to alleged voter fraud prosecutions and state-specific guidance that will focus on North Carolina, Texas, and Florida.

NACDL thanks and salutes its partners in this endeavor: ACLU of Florida, ACLU of Texas, Black Voters Matter Fund, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, National Legal Aid and Defenders Association, Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and Texas Civil Rights Project. Additionally, for bringing these groups together and supporting this project, NACDL and the NACDL Foundation for Criminal Justice express appreciation to the Ford Foundation.

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