Former Commutation Recipients Ask President to Investigate Pardon Attorney Office

Request Follows Appeal for Congressional Investigation of Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 11, 2012

Contact: Monica Pratt Raffanel, (202) 822-6700 or media@famm.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A group of 16 formerly incarcerated people who received sentence commutations from Presidents William J. Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama sent a letter today urging President Obama “to investigate credible claims of serious misconduct against the Office of the Pardon Attorney (OPA) in the Department of Justice (DOJ).” The group also asked the president to use his authority to grant more commutations to deserving applicants.

“We know that the pardon attorney’s office failed President Bush and is now failing President Obama. We won’t know the extent of the damage, however, until the Congress or the Justice Department fully investigates the OPA,” FAMM President Julie Stewart said.

The group’s letter reads, in part:

  • Recent articles by ProPublica investigative journalist Dafna Linzer in The Washington Post reveal serious problems in the way OPA handles clemency requests. The series began late last year with stories documenting what appears to be a disturbing racial disparity in pardon grants. Then, a May 13 article told the story of Clarence Aaron, who is serving a life sentence and was denied a commutation by President George W. Bush after the current pardon attorney, Ronald Rodgers, misrepresented facts about his case to White House counsel.
  • At a May 24 panel at the National Press Club, hosted by Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), a former OPA staff attorney revealed that OPA is not giving full, individualized review to commutation applicants. In the last four years, that office has recommended that 7,000 petitions be denied – a denial rate of seven cases a day. During the Bush administration, the OPA recommended grants in only six of 8,600 commutation requests. We fear that the OPA is not giving commutation applicants the thorough review they warrant and denying you the fair and impartial advice you deserve. We ask you to direct that the Attorney General conduct an investigation into the OPA as soon as possible.
  • Finally, we ask you to grant more commutations. We left behind thousands of people just like us: nonviolent, low-level offenders who made poor choices and terrible mistakes and have since done everything they can to become worthy of a second chance. We are deeply concerned that these friends’ commutation requests have not and will never get a meaningful and unbiased review, and that you will never hear all the facts of their stories.

“The 16 individuals who signed this letter are not unique,” said Molly Gill, FAMM’s director of special projects. “There are thousands of other people in prison just like them, people who have worked hard to rehabilitate themselves and who would lead productive lives in our communities. Getting clemency shouldn’t be like winning the lottery. Every prisoner deserves a fair review from this administration’s pardon attorney – and the president and the taxpayers who pay his salary deserve it, too. But it appears likely that no one will get a fair shake from the pardon attorney’s office unless the President or the Department reforms it.”

For a copy of the full letter, along with the names of the signatories, click here . For more information on FAMM’s demand for accountability at the OPA, go to our website, www.famm.org .

FAMM is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that supports fair and proportionate sentencing laws that allow judicial discretion while maintaining public safety.

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FAMM is a national, nonprofit organization working for fair and proportionate sentencing laws.