New report: 75% of federal life sentence given to minorities

Drug charges are No. 1 reason

Three-fourths of federal life sentences are given to minorities and the bulk are for non-violent drug offenses, according to a new report by the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

Donald Evans, high school graduation

Crack lifer: Donald Evans,former UC Berkely student

The report found that federal life sentences have fallen dramatically since President Obama took office — from 280 in fiscal year 2009 to 153 in 2013 — but no explanation was offered for the decline.

The 26-page report is groundbreaking because it is the first time the federal government has detailed who receives federal life sentences and why.

Even at the reduced number of life sentences in 2013, the Commission found an enormous racial disparity in who received life sentences. The racial breakdown of the 153 life without parole sentences given in 2013 was:

  • blacks — 45.0%.
  • Hispanics — 24.2%.
  • Whites — 24.8%.
  • Asian, Native Americans and other minorities — 6.0%.

read more…

Bob Riley, 62, gentle Deadhead serving a life sentence for LSD

BJ Oct 1990

Bob Riley, a wandering-wondering Deadhead, enjoying a sunny day in New York’s Central Park, in 1990, after several awesome Grateful Dead shows.

Bob Riley, a kind soul who “treads lightly in this world,” is in the 22nd year of a federal life without parole LSD sentence.  The details of his unjust sentence are summarized in this New York Times article.

This story is about Bob, the human being. It was written with Bob’s help, to reflect his unique voice. read more…

Did Melissa deserve to die?

Indonesia executed six drug offenders on Jan. 18, 2015. They were good, interesting, peaceful people. Meet them in a short video. Eight more are scheduled to be murdered soon. Let’s stop the slaughter.

read more…

LaVonne Roach, mom, daughter, poet, Lakota woman

lavonne roach graduation

LaVonne has educated herself while in prison.

Give mom a (first) chance

South Dakota native LaVonne Roach, 50, a member of the Lakota Nation, has been recommended repeatedly to The Clemency Report as just the kind of gentle soul who deserves freedom from a 30-year meth sentence that makes no moral sense.

Those who know LaVonne talk of her kindness and intelligence as well as her spirited optimism and hard work while in prison for 17 years.

Read “See What I See,” a poem by LaVonne Arlene Roach

read more…

Crack Lifer Project: A quest for justice

By Veda Ajamu President and Founder, Crack Lifer Project “Never, never, never give up” — Winston Churchill I will never, never, never give up on fighting for freedom and justice for my brother, Robert Shipp, as he is serving a dreadful inhumane life... read more

How to make a petition succeed for a loved one

  PLUS: The 12 most signed clemency petitions on The 5 keys to success. Petitions on are a powerful  tool for people seeking clemency. The site currently has 2.2 million signatures supporting about 40 clemency petitions.  The Clemency... read more

An angel tastes freedom

  Our star of the day is a gentle woman, a mom who’s been in prison for meth since 1997. She will remain there for another decade — until she’s 59 — unless granted clemency. Let’s call her Angel. Angel recently tasted freedom. She... read more

Let’s send these people home

Alice Marie Johnson, 59, playwright and mentor

Alice is a talented writer and performer. She is currently writing a Christmas Play entitled, “It’s Time.” Alice is already renowned for her annual Easter play and has scripted and staged her own original sequels to “Sister Act” and “Madea Comes to Carswell,” which... read more

Lisa Lorentz, 44, working class kid, great parents

  Lisa grew up in a nice suburb outside of Dallas, Texas, in a loving, working-class home with two older brothers. Her parents have been married 50 years. Despite this upbringing, she had difficulty fitting in during her teenage years. She eventually dropped out... read more

“We may be surprised at the people we find in heaven.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

More news from The Clemency Report

True rehabilitation and a second chance at life

Jermaine Sims is serving a life sentence for purchasing a gun used in a fatal bank robbery in 1997. A bank teller was killed, three others were wounded. Sims did not participate in the robbery — the two men who did are serving life for the crime — but... read more

Attack against Deadheads was no hallucination

I wrote this story 22 years ago. It seems profoundly relevant, even today. — Dennis Cauchon, editor, The Clemency Report Attack on Deadheads is no hallucination Band’s followers handed stiff LSD sentences   By DENNIS CAUCHON USA TODAY October 17, 1992... read more

What a man saw in prison today…

Luis Anthony Rivera. Ever heard of him? Of course not. Luis is an invisible human rights abuse victim, among the tens of thousands of people serving immorally long drug sentences that disgrace our nation. Luis, 57, is nearing the 30th anniversary of a life without... read more

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Crack + Black = Life

New: The 10 Most Outrageous Crack Cocaine Sentences

robert shipp close crop

No. 1 Robert Shipp — life without parole for selling crack at age 20

Read list

The Top 25 Women Deserving Clemency

Pauline Blake cropped

No. 21 Pauline Blake

Please sign the petition today.

The petition now has 3,200+ signatures.

Meet the women

The U.S. should release one million from prison. 

Is it really that many -- one million?

The actual number is 1,606,535. Read why.

Why don't I hear about these people?

Prison silences. Imprisoned men and women are barely real to most free people. The Clemency Report aims to change that.


What can I do?

Tell the story of an affected loved one. Sign the petitions at to show support for nonviolent drug offenders in prison.

Tell us about someone who deserves a shorter sentence.

6 + 4 =


Happy Birthday to Richard  DeLisi, pot offender, age 66 on Feb. 27. Release date: 2026. See for mailing address.Richard DeLisi

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The 10 Historical Uses of Clemency

1) To correct hard cases.
2) To correct unduly severe sentences.
3) For mitigating circumstances.
4) For innocence or dubious guilt.
5) In death penalty cases.
6) For physical condition.
7) To restore civil rights.
8) To prevent deportations.
9) For political purposes or reasons of state.
10) To mitigate harm to children.

What We Do

The Clemency Report seeks to identify imprisoned men and women -- and classes of imprisoned men and women -- worthy of executive clemency and freedom.

Human nature

"Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future." -- Oscar Wilde
Bob Riley says thanks

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