Sunday, March 1, 2015

Clemency Project for Inmates Will Rely on Pro Bono Lawyers

 An influx of applications from prisoners slowed down Obama's initiative which granted clemency or leniency towards nonviolent offenders. This resulted in requiring an influx of pro bono lawyers to help sort through the complicated review process. This initiative, The Clemency Project, was introduced about a year ago to help prison inmates serving sentences for nonviolent crimes by handing them a less severe punishment. There is a set of criteria to see if the inmates are eligible for a shorter sentence such as the requirement that an inmate has been behind bars for 10 years. The broad goal of this initiative is to reduce the prison population by turning back the use of harsh sentences for crimes involving drugs. By reducing the prison population, which has increased by about 210,000 inmates, it has costed taxpayers about $6.5 billion annually. So far, Obama has shortened the sentence for 8 inmates, all on long drug sentences.

Considering that taxpayers pay up to $6.5 billion annually for the federal prison population, about 25% of the Justice Department's budget, I feel that Obama's initiative would be quite helpful. The money  However, the fact that only 8 out of 25,000 inmate applications were given shorter sentences casts doubt on how effective the initiative will be. In fact, applications must be reviewed by the Justice Department before recommendations are sent to the White House, thus slowing down the review process.

Do the economic benefits from the Clemency Project outweigh the potential costs?
Where is the line drawn to where the reduced sentences of these inmates threaten our national security?
How effective do you think the initiative will be in a few years?
Do you think this initiative might have some negative outcomes? If so, what are they?
What kind of alternatives are there in order to reduce the federal prison population?


Miranda Brinkley said...

I definitely agree with the ideas behind this project, both with the ideas behind it and the financial incentive to lower the number of inmates in prison. Now I'm not disputing that certain prisoners deserve to be there and to serve out their entire sentence, but some of the inmates absolutely deserve a shorter sentence due to crimes committed out of ignorance or desperation. For those of you that are familiar with the Humans of New York Blog I happen to agree with the principal of Mott Hall Bridges Academy in that "every time someone drops out of school they build a new jail cell." Although this effort will require mass manpower, such as the pro bono lawyers mentioned and mass amounts of time, I think this project is one worth dedicating resources to as it will pay off in the long run, but mustering up the time and effort to sort through all those applications could prove to be a significant obstacle to the process.

Kelsey O'Donnell said...

I think that no matter how inefficient this project is, it should be continued because of the importance of it. Sentencing laws NEED to be changed because there are three million people in jail in America, and that is around one in every hundred people. That's crazy. The american prison system is incredibly defective with abuse running rampant, people being left in there to rot for nonviolent crimes, and a lack of any proper rehabilitation process. I think that people are afraid of letting people out of jail who will commit the same crime again and endanger society. These are nonviolent crime prisoners, and are unlikely to move to violent crime after being released. The process needs to be simplified and sentencing laws as a whole need to be redone.