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December 10, 2021

FIX Clemency Act introduced in US House seeking to fix broken federal clemency process

As reported in this new Insider article, headlined "Congressional progressives back new bill to radically change the 'broken' clemency system," today a notable new federal bill was introduced seeking to fix the federal sentencing process.  Here are the basics:

The "FIX Clemency Act," introduced Friday by Rep. Ayanna Pressley, a Democrat from Massachusetts, calls for a nine-person board that would be responsible for reviewing petitions for clemency and issuing recommendations directly to the president. The recommendations would also be made public in an annual report to Congress. At least one member of the panel would be someone who was previously incarcerated.

"Clemency works, but the current system is broken and denies thousands of people the chance of redemption and justice," Pressley told Insider. "It is long overdue that the president uses his clemency authority to address the generations of systemic injustices that have created the mass incarceration crisis," she said, arguing that her bill was a "critical" part of that effort.

The proposal, endorsed by the ACLU and the NAACP, comes as advocates of clemency reform are increasingly frustrated with the administration. Since taking office, President Joe Biden has not used his clemency power — a fact that is not unusual at this point in a new presidency, but a disappointment to those who see it as an area where the White House can immediately and unilaterally reform the criminal justice system....

The bill introduced Friday would eliminate the Office of the Pardon Attorney, transferring its functions to the new board, and guarantee that all requests for pardon or commutation be reviewed within 18 months. Members of the new panel would include a representative from the Department of Justice, but also someone who has worked for a federal public defenders office.

During the 2020 campaign, a "unity" task force composed of Biden supporters and backers of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders recommended the creation of an independent clemency review board. The proposal is also in the Democratic Party's platform.

So far, however, the administration has given no indication that it endorses the reform. And its liberal critics say the federal criminal justice system is headed in the wrong direction. "2021 marks the first increase in 8 years of our federal prison population — that's nearly a decade of progress that has been wiped out," Rep. Cori Bush, a Democrat from Missouri and cosponsor of the new legislation, said in a statement....

"Fueled by the failed war on drugs, the mass incarceration epidemic that our nation faces has ruined lives, families and communities," Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a New York Democrat who leads the House Democratic Caucus, said in a statement. "Our broken clemency system only deepens this pain, and we must transform it in a just, equitable and transparent manner."

Via Rep. Presssly's official website, here are links for the Bill Text and Bill Summary for this quite interesting and important bill.  This press release from that office, titled "Bill Establishes Independent U.S. Clemency Board to Review Applications, Transmit Recommendations Directly to President," starts this way:

Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), along with Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01), Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08) and grassroots advocates, unveiled the Fair and Independent Experts in Clemency (FIX Clemency) Act, historic legislation to transform our nation’s broken clemency system and address the growing mass incarceration crisis. 

December 10, 2021 at 01:54 PM | Permalink


Pardons should be routinely granted where offense is relatively minor and the person has lived an exemplary life since the crime.

Posted by: Federalist | Dec 10, 2021 2:10:35 PM

Somewhere along the history of this "free" Country some great men thought it was a great idea to give drug addicts, who dealt small amounts of drugs to maintain their habit, a longer sentence than violent criminals. Placing the American people at a greater risk of a violent crime because these are the people getting out on parole, (for some reason the Federal Gov doesn't go after them, only drug involved crime, which honestly they have no business doing, 99% of the cases should be on the State level, but then again, the States want actual evidence) or at the end of their shorter sentence. Imagine what it must be like to sit in a Federal Prison and see someone walk in and 12 years later, walk out even though they murdered someone...This is supposed to be the land if the free, but, is the far from the truth.
We have Prosecutors who push for overly long sentences for people who have charges for "Drug Trafficking" though the only evidence they have is the word of someone else pulled in for the reason. The entire judicial power is in the prosecutors, not judges, it's a farce and it's not like they have a conscience. How do they sleep at night? I have no clue.
People with drug problems (which if you read these peoples proffers, it's in black and white on the first page, hence why they are recommended for RDAP , a drug treatment program. An educated person would think to themselves, these people would benefit so much more in rehab or sentenced to community service. Win/Win for both parties. (before they are sent to prison for 10 years or in a lot of cases 20 or more years)
Biden promised to fix this, he has not. What a disappointment, especially since he is one of the main reasons we are spending so much money to house these people, and their children who we end up supporting one way or another.
Another problem in the Federal Justice System is why are these people doing time in prison again for past petty crimes they already did time for? They already paid society for whatever they were in trouble for, you make them do it again? I might be able to accept that if it was a drug crime, but it's any trouble they have been in. If they didn't pay a past fine while on probation or parole? (Because let's be real, these people are all poor) then they call it "absconding" making it almost impossible for them to get any relief while in prison. Most, caught in a web of words of a friend who WAS caught with drugs. Also there is no parole so if they were sentenced to 35 years (truly, a common sentence) they will die in there.
State investigators have to do their jobs and set up buys, get drug amount evidence, video, text, gps, but the Federal Government can just pull you in because someone said they saw them with drugs and tell them they better plead guilty or pay for it if they take it to trial? Which they will pay for if they go to trial because the Justice system is setup that way. You don't get a downward departure so if found guilty, and you will be. Words are evidence in Federal, you will spend the rest of your life in prison, for words, with no relief...ever.
This is so wrong in so many ways, and this President promised to fix it, he has not done anything. As much as I couldn't stand the past President, he did do something and passed the first step act, which was weak at best. But, it was something.

The American people should be outraged and demand change, strike down mandatory minimums and the abuse of peoples rights, put the power back into the judges hands. NOW, before the next person walk in a courtroom to get a sentence longer than El Chapo. There are a ton just in the Fort Worth area who are in prison with no drugs ever found on them serving longer than an actual Kingpin who murdered people and caught with drugs...

You're probably wondering why I am writing so much about this...it's because, just like any other bill that makes sense, like this one. Won't pass. Anything that makes sense, just doesn't.
I sit back and wonder, why does this Country want to keep people locked up for most of their lives for drugs? (I am not talking about Kingpins and/or violent drug cartels)- because it gives the middle class jobs, and corporations billions. These corporations are in these corrupt politicians ears telling them they will loose their support if a reform bill is passed. This isn't the American way. I always wonder why these great bills come up and nothing ever happens. It's because they want to look like they are trying when they know damn well it won't pass.
Solution? Vote out the old corrupt politicians who have been in these corporations pockets for years and vote in people who will make change, demand term limits in congress so we can get rid of these soulless ticks who are bleeding this country dry.
Sorry for the rant, I type fast.

Posted by: ESiretta | Dec 11, 2021 4:54:17 AM

Pardons should be granted for non Violent drug charges
Especially if they have been sentenced to over 10 years
If the person is taking classes and showed they have tried to better themselves after 3 years they should be able to get a pardon
These men are pleading guilty to football numbers because they know better than to go to trial. They have no choice but to plead guilty to something they didn’t do
This is breaking up families especially in the black communities.

Posted by: Prison lives matter | Dec 11, 2021 7:25:14 PM

Those convicted of possession of child pornography material ONLY (as a first time offense) and with NO evidence of any contact with minors, and who have completed their term of supervised release and their treatment regimen, and have not re-offended for at least three years, should be granted clemency and/or pardoned. And taken off the sex offender registry.

The moral panic associated with this addiction (and it IS an addiction) and the steady increase in penalties over the past 20 years needs to be checked. There is NO reason to routinely and without need destroy their lives. The recidivism rate for those with a history of this offense is the lowest of ALL cohorts, other than murderers.

Isn't it about time to re-examine our response to this offense? I'm more than ready to let these offenders live their lives in peace. Many, if not most, can return to being productive and positive members of our community.

Posted by: Get Off Necks | Dec 12, 2021 4:37:45 AM

@ Getoffournecks, maybe so, but those dudes drive production.

Posted by: Federalist | Dec 12, 2021 11:23:41 AM


The same could be said of every drug offender and offense. And white collar crimes as well. And political corruption, especially on the part of politicians (on both sides of the aisle). And yet, pardons and clemency predominates white collar crimes, and political corruption offenses. Your argument is not at all persuasive.

Posted by: Get Off Necks | Dec 12, 2021 11:02:22 PM

If people are driving the production of vile porn, why shouldn’t they be punished? And can’t society treat the viewing of kiddie porn as re-victimization?

Posted by: Federalist | Dec 13, 2021 10:45:16 AM


Of course punishment should be appropriate for the crime. My point is that the punishment is out of proportion as are the all of the collateral consequences following the punishment (i.e., prison).

Following incarceration, an offender is further sentenced to a lifetime of punishment (i.e., sex offender registry, prohibitions as to travel, limitations as to housing, employment, holding of professional licenses, overall stigmatization and banishment from society [think 'Scarlett Letter'], just to name a few) These punishments are not visited upon ANY OTHER category of crime. It is way way past the money. And all because of the moral 'reaction' of those enflamed by sensationalistic press coverage, unrelenting political grandstanding, holier-than-thou vindictiveness and vigilantism.

Even murderers are given second chances.

Posted by: Get Off Necks | Dec 13, 2021 6:51:53 PM

They call what happens to felons after they have completed serving their sentences "collateral consequences", but they really do destroy lives, as much or more than the formal punishments and incarceration do.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Dec 19, 2021 6:49:45 PM

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