Drug lifer Luis Rivera released Tuesday under new “Holloway doctrine”

Luis Anthony Rivera, 59, a wonderful man doing life without parole for cocaine since 1983, was released suddenly Tuesday night under the groundbreaking “Holloway doctrine” that permits reducing sentences that are unduly harsh yet technically correct.

Attorney Sam S. Sheldon

Attorney Sam S. Sheldon

Sam S. Sheldon, an attorney and former federal prosecutor, is the tour de force behind this important legal innovation, which could play a huge role in winning early releases for those serving multi-decade federal sentences.

His motion to win Luis’ freedom describes the Holloway doctrine this way: 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 Grateful Dead shows.

Update: Sentence not commuted. 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…

“Can I go home now?” Sharanda Jones, serving a life sentence for drugs, asks the right question

Crack lifer Sharanda Jones, 47, wrote this beautiful article for The Guardian, a British newspaper. 

By Sharanda Jones

sharanda new oct 2014

Sharanda and daughter Clenesha

When I was asked to write my bio for this story, I wrote, “Sharanda Jones is a loving, caring mother with a open heart and mind.”

When I was asked to write the story itself, I wrote, “I am a first time non-violent offender serving a life sentence for one count of conspiracy.”

Story here on who got clemency from Obama There is no reduction, no good behavior, that will ever reduce my sentence and allow me to return to society. I know that, unless President Obama (or one of his successors) commutes my sentence, I will die in prison. A life sentence in the federal system is just a very slow death.

read more…

Obama commutes 46 drug sentences

President Obama shorted 46 non-violent drug sentences to a November 10, 2015 release date. The official list is here. An analysis of the race, gender, drug and sentence effect is here: “Mostly black, mostly crack.”

Jeffrey Toler

Jeffrey Toler

Details on each individual are in the story you’re reading.

Thirteen drug offenders (including Jeffrey Toler, pictured) were serving life without parole.

Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas‘s mom got her crack sentence reduced. Katrina Thomas, 42, will be freed in November, a year and a half early, after serving more than 15 years.

Demaryius visiting mom, Katrina, in prison.

Demaryius visiting mom in prison.

Also to be released: an 84-year-old black man given 45 years for crack…a 72-year-old black man given a life sentence for crack…and a 33-year-old black man sentenced to life for selling crack as a teenager.

Meet the 46 clemency recipients:   read more…

Donald B.W. Evans, good kid, U.C. Berkeley student, crack lifer

Crack + Black = Life

Donald Evans, Catholic elementary school graduation

Donald Evans, Catholic elementary school graduation

Update: Donald’s life sentence was reduced by a judge to 30 years. He will be released April 26, 2016. 

“Intelligent. Concerned. Loving. Family-oriented.”

That’s how Donald’s mom describes her son.

Is she right? The evidence shows she is.

Spend a few moments today meeting a fine man, Donald B.W. Evans, an intelligent 50-year-old with much to offer.

In 1990, the nation’s justice system froze this good man’s life into a racist stereotype: worthless young black male. Today, Donald is serving life without parole because he — and hundreds of others who look like him — sold crack cocaine. read more…

Mostly black, mostly crack

Obama’s commutations, by the numbers This round of presidential clemency grants was clearly aimed at racially discriminatory crack cocaine laws. The Clemency Report analyzed President Obama’s 46 clemency grants to drug offenders on July 13. What we found Demographics Race. 37 prisoners were black, 8 were white (non-Hispanic), 1 was white Hispanic. Gender. 42 men, 4 women. Three women were black, one was white. Age. The average age was 49.1. Blacks averaged 47.3 years old; whites were 56.4. Crack. 37 were crack cocaine offenders: 36 black (33 male, 3 female) and one white woman. Other drugs. Two were marijuana-only offenders. Five were for powder cocaine. One was for meth. Ten had an another drug involved, in addition to the primary one. Geography  South: Of the blacks, 78% — 29 of the 37 — had been prosecuted in former Confederate states. (Of the whites, only 37% — three of eight — had.) All 12 blacks serving life without parole sentences had been prosecuted being served. Of the 12 blacks serving life without parole, all had been prosecuted in Southern states, as had a 13th who got his sentence reduced in February. The only Hispanic among the 46 commutations was also a Southern prosecution, from Florida. (The only non-Southern life sentence was given to a white cocaine dealer from Milwaukee.) Midwest. Six of the remaining eight prosecutions of African Americans were from Midwestern states: Missouri (2), plus Iowa, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. Four of the eight non-Hispanic whites were Midwestern prosecutions. East. Two of the black prisoners receiving commutations were Eastern prosecutions: Delaware, Maryland. West:  No offenders — black or white — were from the West Coast. Only one offender —... read more

Interview: How Larry Duke turned a marijuana life sentence into freedom

Larry Duke, 68, was unexpectedly released from a life-without-parole marijuana sentence on March 5, 2015 under the Bureau of Prisons’ Compassionate Release/Reduction in Sentence (CR/RIS) program. His release was a rare example of the executive branch’s broad, but oddly underused, power to release deserving prisoners — without exercising presidential clemency. Larry was convicted in 1991 and is the first person serving a federal life sentence known to have been released under the CR/RIS program, making his case an important precedent for thousands of lifers serving life sentences for drug offenses.  The Clemency Report talked to Larry about his release. Why do you think you received a Reduction in Sentence? Everyone wants to know that, including myself. I certainly qualify under the new criteria (contained in policy statement 5050. 49) and in 3582 as well — but so do many others. I’m as healthy as a horse, so my sentence reduction wasn’t for medical reasons, although my age certainly would have been a qualifying factor. You accomplished an amazing amount while in prison. Do you think that made a difference? The Reduction in Sentence (RIS) program is supposed to benefit “extraordinary and compelling” performance. So I suspect what I did in prison played a role.  I think I’m the only federal prisoner to obtain a patent while in prison. (Editor: The patent was for a water purification device.)  I’ve also developed plans to help government design high-speed surface transportation and, separately, to speed mass evacuations during emergencies. How important was the prison staff to your release?   Enormously. The biggest thing I had going for me was the great staff at Jesup, where I’d... read more

Bernard Noble named as No. 4 Louisiana prisoner deserving freedom

Cajun cook got 13 years for two joints Bernard Noble, 48, an example of how drug laws are used to harvest black men for prison, was named the No. 4 prisoner in Louisiana deserving clemency. He was sentenced to 13 years and three months in prison for nothing, although his technical offense was “Driving (a bicycle) While Black.” Bernard was riding a bike in New Orleans while visiting his father in 2010. Two police officers saw him pedaling, ordered him off his bicycle and searched him without probable cause. (Stop-and-frisk searches require mere suspicion, not probable cause, and are common rationale for stopping and searching minorities.) Bernard had two joints two joints — 2.8 grams of pot. For this trivia, he was on his way to a decade in prison, courtesy of a Louisiana justice system that is exceedingly harsh on African Americans. Bernard, a father of seven, is a good person. He’d worked his entire life, driving a truck, working as a janitor, doing odd jobs. Then, a few years ago, he found a little success, almost accidentally, as a popular Cajun food caterer in Kansas City, where he’d landed after Hurricane Katrina flushed him out of New Orleans. Bernard was visiting his hometown to get ingredients for Cajun cooking and a New Orleans-style sweet shop. Then, two cops thought a black man on a bicycle looked suspicious. “I would not make it back” to Kansas City, writes Bernard from jail. “My past would become my future, and my history confinement.” Why drugs laws don’t work  Bernard had struggled with drug problems much of his life. “Drugs were pure pleasure from... read more

New report: 75% of federal life sentences 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. 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%. whites — 24.8%. Hispanics — 24.2%. Asian, Native Americans and other minorities — 6.0%. By contrast, blacks accounted for 13.2% of the U.S. population and 20.6% of federal offenders in 2013. The offenses causing the 153 life sentences in 2013 were: drugs — 41.8%. firearms — 17.6%. murder — 12.4%. other — 11.8%. extortion and racketeering — 10.5%. sex abuse — 5.9%. Drug offenses likely account for more than half of all sentences because a large share of firearm and racketeering are essentially drug offenses. In 2013, offenders receiving life without parole were as young as 20 and as old as 80. Men accounted for 150 of the 153 life sentence. The new report did not provide demographics for each offense category. But the numbers point to whites tending to get long sentences for sex offenses, such as child pornography, while blacks, Hispanics... read more

The 10 Most Outrageous Marijuana Prison Sentences

Update: Larry Duke was given “compassionate release” March 4, 2015. READ TOP 10 MARIJUANA LIST HERE By Beth Curtis Founder, lifeforpot.com   Unjust marijuana sentences have consumed the last 20 years of my life. When my brother told me that he faced life without parole for a non-violent, first offense for helping smuggle marijuana, I couldn’t believe it. Neither could my 82-year-old mother. Her only solace was the fact that that our father, a Presbyterian minister, was not alive to have his heart broken about what was happening to a smart, gentle, funny son. Marijuana prohibition is not a victimless crime. This foolish policy has devastated my family and harmed millions of other good families. I present this list of the 10 Most Outrageous Marijuana Sentences to help you meet some of the people who’ve been harmed most. These marijuana prisoners are good and honorable people. Most are talented, inventive men who loved life and had a sense of daring. All are peaceful. All are honest. All have been seriously wronged by our government. My brother, John Knock, is No. 1 on the list of the 10 Most Outrageous Marijuana Sentences. I ranked John at the top because his injustice is so raw and personal to me. But all the men on this list are equally deserving of freedom. What do these good men have in common? All are non-violent marijuana prisoners. Nine went to trial and are paying a “trial penalty” for legally defending themselves. The tenth tried to take back a plea agreement, wasn’t allowed to and got whacked with a life sentence. Nine of the 10 are... read more

How to make a change.org petition succeed for a loved one

  PLUS: The 12 most signed clemency petitions on change.org. The 5 keys to success. Petitions on change.org are a powerful  tool for people seeking clemency. The site currently has 2.2 million signatures supporting about 40 clemency petitions.  The Clemency Report asked Jon Perri, deputy campaigns director at change.org and a drug reform advocate, how to make a petition work for those seeking freedom. Here’s what he told us.  What’s your background, Jon?  I started working on drug policy while at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire. I worked at Students for a Sensible Drug Policy for several years after college. So drug policy reform holds a place close to your heart. Definitely! Right now, it’s one of the most important issues in the country and we’re at a tipping point, not just for marijuana but for drug policy generally. There’s just more compassion for non-violent drug offenders than before and the momentum is growing. How can a change.org petition help? The petitions can help people see the human face of misguided drug policies. The backbone of a change.org petition is personal stories, almost always shared by loved ones. What should a petition say? Be a story teller. The best petitions put a human face on a policy issue. That’s what drives change. Tell the person’s story or how it’s affected a family. Touch people’s hearts. Even if the goal is to reduce the 18:1 crack to powder cocaine disparity, you want to focus on someone who has been harmed by the law, not the issue in general or legalistic way. How should the petition be written? The petition should be from... read more

Let’s send these people home

Josie Ledezma, 56, a “mom’s mom,” ready to be a great grandmother

Josephine (Josie) was a teacher’s aide who married her high school sweetheart and had three children. Josie’s three children, young when she went to prison, are all now grown with families of their own. She has missed out on endless memories that can never be retrieved but yearns to reunite with her family and salvage the years she’s missing out on as a grandmother.  Josie has a large support group of family members who ready to provide assistance to Josie in the event she is chosen as a worthy candidate for mercy of a sentence commutation.  Indeed, it will be a day of immense celebration for all of Josie’s family and friends when she returns home to a loving environment from which she has been so horribly missed. *     *     * Josie never used drugs or had any desire to be involved in drugs, but, like many women, she was willing to do a favor for a family member.  Josephine’s brother was involved in drugs. He asked Josie to give an envelope of money to someone, which she agreed to do. That person was involved in a drug deal with Josie’s brother who’d agreed to drive an RV from California to Washington DC. The person driving the RV was pulled over, arrested and agreed to “cooperate.” Josie became ensnared in the conspiracy statute and was held culpable for everything that numerous people were doing in a large network of cocaine distributors. Because she went to trial, asserting her innocence, she received LIFE. Others, who testified against her and were FAR MORE CULPABLE,  are free! Josie admits she knew her brother was... read more

Weldon Angelos, 35, father, entrepreneur; judge called his 55-year sentence “unjust, cruel”

Nine years ago, Weldon Angelos, a 24-year-old rap music entrepreneur from Salt Lake City, was sentenced to 55 years in federal prison for three small-time marijuana sales. In a letter released today, 113 concerned citizens, including 60 former prosecutors, 17 former judges, seven former state attorneys general, and four former governors, remind President Obama that he has the power to free Angelos, whose case is frequently cited to illustrate the injustices resulting from mandatory minimum sentences. U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell, who imposed what may well amount to a life sentence on Angelos, called it “unjust, cruel, and even irrational” but noted that his hands were tied by the mandatory minimums Congress had prescribed for people who engage in drug trafficking while possessing a gun: five years for the first offense and 25 years for each subsequent offense. Angelos, a first-time offender, had a handgun concealed under his clothing during two pot sales; the third count was tied to guns police found when they searched his home. He never brandished a gun, let alone fired one, and no one but Angelos and his family suffered as a result of the marijuana sales, which involved a total of a pound and a half. The letter urging Obama to commute Angelos’ sentence, which was organized by the Constitution Project, highlights the perversity of the penalty he received: Had Mr. Angelos been charged in [a Utah] court…he would have been paroled years ago. Indeed, Mr. Angelos’s sentence is longer than the punishment imposed on far more serious federal offenses and offenders. His term of imprisonment exceeds the federal sentence for, among others, an aircraft hijacker, a second-degree murderer, a... read more

Michael Palmer: “A medical student dreams of her father”

In 1989, Michael Palmer was convicted of running a crack business in Washington, D.C. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole. His daughter, Taylor, was born seven days later. “Like every other fatherless child, I have cried myself to sleep at night,” writes Taylor, now a 25-year-old medical student. She worked hard at school, loved her mother, was pen pals with her dad. She will graduate from medical school in 2016.  “My goal is to be a successful doctor and my dream is to have a father,” she says.  Taylor is the same age as her father’s prison sentence. Michael Palmer, now 51, a resident of FCI Allenwood, says, “I missed the golden years of my children.” (He is pictured with his daughters when they were young.)    Clemency is a powerful tool. The legal system cannot take into account the damage prison sentences do to children. Clemency can. The question is when. When should the collateral damage from a prison sentence, even one legally imposed, be softened because of the damage to others? The Pew Charitable Trusts estimate that 2.7 children under the age of 18 have a parent behind bars — 3.6% of all children. The racial disparity is enormous: 11.4% of black kids have an imprisoned parent; only 1.8% of white kids do. Think about these numbers for a moment. Ask yourself: How much do whites really know about the everyday lives of a significant share of the black community?  This is one reason why clemency is far more than a legal consideration. President Obama, a fatherless child himself, needs to care about more than whether a 2255 motion was timely... read more

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 she schedules on holidays such as Mother’s Day, Juneteenth and the Fourth of July. (Carswell is the location of one of the Bureau of Prison’s medical centers.) Kene Holliday who played Detective Tyler on the Matlock series is a big supporter of Alice’s clemency. He has offered to work with her on projects upon her release. *     *     * Alice has served 18 years (by 2014) for “Attempted Possession” of Cocaine.  Ten co-defendants cut a deal to lessen their sentence by agreeing to testify against Alice, who never sold drugs. However, the testimony became exaggerated by co-conspirators hoping to curry favor and get the best deal possible. Alice admits she was a “go between.” She passed messages by phone to those who were selling and readily takes responsibility for her role. She is remorseful and agrees she deserved some punishment, but rewarding the worst offenders and giving Alice life is not justice. Alice refuses to play the victim card and, from the day she arrived in prison, enrolled in and completed a long list of programs, courses and rehabilitative classes. She mentors women in her unit. — Amy Povah Alice Johnson    Age: 59  Children: 2 daughters and 2 sons, 2 grand-daughters and 2 grand-sons Year Sentenced: 1996  Sentence: LIFE  Release Date: Death  Priors: First Time Offender  Prison Conduct:  Exemplary record and... read more

Leopoldo Hernandez-Miranda: The most deserving clemency candidate you’ve never heard of

The best-known cases of drug war injustice belong to prisoners who have articulate advocates outside of prison. Unfortunately, thousands of equally deserving prisoners lack support systems, language skills and other tools to assert their humanity to the free world. Beth Curtis, the big-hearted founder of the web site lifeforpot.com, writes this story of Leopoldo Hernandez-Miranda, 75, who is technically serving life without parole for a marijuana offense. His real offense is being poor, powerless and Hispanic.  By Beth Curtis When Leopoldo Hernandez-Miranda came to the United States in 1980, he was fleeing Cuba. With his fourth grade education and limited English, he was ill equipped to handle the complicated life in his new country. As a resident immigrant with an Immigration and Naturalization Service number, Leopoldo was never able to secure employment that paid more than $6 an hour. Nevertheless, he worked hard to have relationships, family, and to take care of himself and those he loved.  From the time Leopoldo was a child helping his mother fix the fishing nets, he had always worked on boats. When that was not available, he worked as a day laborer. In 1993, Leopoldo was living with his wife in Miami and working as a painter for Atilano Dominquez.  For his labor, Leopoldo was paid $50 a day, plus lunch. Dominquez had made arrangements to purchase 3,100 pounds of marijuana. Unbeknownst to him, this was a sting operation and undercover DEA agents were the pot suppliers.  Dominquez took the marijuana to a stash house to weigh. Another worker picked up Dominquez’s day laborer, Leopoldo. Compliant Leopoldo was instructed to guard the marijuana in the safe house.  Of course, as soon as Dominquez left, the agents who had supplied... 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 of school and obtained her GED. Lisa worked hard, holding down jobs in retail management and event planning. But she made bad choices in friends. She began experimenting with drugs and was a casual user until 2005. Lisa entered an abusive relationship and began using methamphetamine to cope. “Over a three-year period, my drug use continued until I was using meth on a daily basis,” Lisa says. “Every area of my life was affected: I quit jobs, wasted my savings, and pushed my family and friends away so I could hide my addiction.” At this point in her addiction, in the spring of 2008, Lisa met a new man. He was a dealer, and, at first, Lisa only purchased drugs from him. In July of that year, they began dating. Lisa escaped her existing abusive relationship and went to this new man who was “good-looking, charismatic, and persuasive,” she recalls.  “I was vulnerable, and I fell for him.” On August 19, less than one month after they’d started dating, Lisa’s new boyfriend decided to fulfill a promise to paint and remodel her living room. After starting the project, he said that he needed a few additional items. He asked Lisa to drive him to Home Depot. She did so, having no reason to believe they were going to do anything other than shop. According to court... read more

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

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

More news from The Clemency Report

Teen getaway driver named No. 2 Michigan prisoner most deserving clemency

Saulo Montalvo, 35, convicted as a 16-year-old getaway car driver in a fatal convenience store robbery, was named the No. 2 prisoner from Michigan most deserving clemency. Saulo’s clemency petition was supported by the victim’s family, his sentencing judge and others, but Republican Gov. Rick Snyder rejected the clemency request without explanation. In 1996, Saulo drove two 15-year-old friends to a convenience store in Grand Rapids, Mich. Robert Maze and Christopher Peltier went inside. Maze shot and killed 61-year-old Rodney Corp. Peltier took the money from the cash register. Maze and Peltier were sentenced — and are still serving — life without parole, as is Saulo. Michigan law makes no distinction between teens 14 and older and adults involved in serious crime, nor does it make a distinction between the role played in the offense. In prison, Saulo has married his middle school sweetheart, started a ministry and recorded impeccable prison behavior. His case is an example of how elected officials, mostly Republican, refuse to treat criminal defendants with humanity, often refusing to comply with seemingly obvious interpretations of the law. As described in Detroit Free Press: During Montalvo’s time in prison, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole constitute cruel and unusual punishment, but Michigan is one of a few states that has determined the ruling does not apply retroactively. State Attorney General Bill Schutte has steadfastly opposed applying the ruling to previous cases. There is a case before the U.S. Supreme Court set to be heard in the fall that could clarify whether the justices meant for the Constitution to... read more

Barbara Scrivner’s life after presidential clemency

Barbara Scrivner was ranked No. 7 on The Clemency Report’s list of women most deserving clemency until  President Obama commuted her meth sentence in December. Barbara is the subject of this excellent Yahoo News story and this moving video on her challenges since being released. A mom’s battle to survive freedom  The Yahoo story spells her first name as Barbra, which might be correct. The Clemency Report and others have spelled her name as Barbara because that’s how it appears in court documents and the Bureau of Prison inmate locator. Sadly, prisoner names are sometimes spelled incorrectly in the legal system forever because requests from prisoners to fix misspellings are routinely ignored, a little-known example of how the system dehumanizes those under its... read more

Feds releasing record number of prisoners under “compassionate release”

The Bureau of Prisons is on track to release about 110 federal prisoners this fiscal year under its revised and expanded Compassionate Releases/Reduction in Sentence program. The Bureau generally keeps the number secret, but, in response to a request, a BoP spokesman told The Clemency Report that 56 prisoners had been released from October 1, 2014 through April 3, 2015. At this rate, about 110 federal prisoners will be released during the federal government’s 2015 budget year, which runs from October 1-September 30. This would be the highest in the program’s history but still a sliver — one-twentieth of one percent — of the 208,609 federal prisoners. The federal Compassionate Release/Reduction in Sentence (CR/RIS) program is a misunderstood and (for reasons that aren’t clear) seldom-used program. The BoP revised the program’s regulations after news reports and an Inspector General report detailed failings in the program. Despite revised regulations, the program is still clouded in secrecy and bureaucracy, making it the center of much mystery and sadness as sick, elderly prisoners continue to die in prison despite appearing to qualify for compassionate release. Just as importantly, the second part of the program — Reductions in Sentences — appears to be oddly dormant. The Justice Department has engaged in a cumbersome effort to increase the use of presidential clemency to accomplish similar goals but, under its self-imposed clemency procedures, has struggled to produce a significant number of releases. (More are expected shortly.) Larry Duke, 68, a marijuana lifer released after serving nearly 25 years, was a rare and notable exception of the CR/RIS achieving its goals. As Larry notes in this interview, the Bureau’s authority... read more

Brave British grandmother: Next drug offender to be murdered in Indonesia

Won’t wear blindfold when Indonesia shoots her Will sing “Magic Moments” by Perry Como Lindsay Sandiford, 58, is the lone drug offender still awaiting execution in the Kerobokan Jail in Bali, Indonesia. The British grandmother from North Yorkshire was convicted of carrying  10.6 pounds of cocaine in the hidden compartment of a suitcase in 2012. The head of the conspiracy was given a six-year sentence. But Indonesia focuses executions on drug couriers, rather than kingpins. The prosecutor recommended Lindsay receive a 15-year sentence and wept when the court rejected the recommendation and ordered her firing squad execution. The United Kingdom, unlike other governments, does not finance appeals for citizens facing execution in foreign countries. That leaves Lindsay unable to appeal her legally questionable and morally unjust death sentence. The Daily Mail in London published Lindsay’s thoughtful first-person account of her plight on May 2. Here’s what she had to say:   My execution is imminent and I know I might die at any time now. I could be taken tomorrow from my cell in Bali to Nusa Kambangan – the place they call Execution Island – and given 72 hours’ notice before I am put in front of a firing squad. I am now the only prisoner left on death row in Kerobokan and the Indonesian government says it wants to execute everyone given the death penalty for drug crimes before the end of 2015 – and that there will be no clemency. The day of my death came closer on Wednesday with the execution in Nusa Kambangan of eight prisoners, including my dear friend Andrew Chan. Andrew had helped... read more

Obama 22 sentence commutations focus on crack + black

President Obama commuted the sentences of 22 drug prisoners Tuesday. The breakdown: Offense: 12 crack cocaine only; 3 powder cocaine only; 2 powder and crack; 2 meth, 1 meth-and heroin, 1 marijuana, 1 drugs unspecified Race: 16 African American, 6 white, including 5 who are of Hispanic origin. Gender: 20 men, 2 women. Life sentences. 8. Dates given: 1992, 1993, 1995 (2), 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002. The names, ages, race, offense and release dates of the 22 people who had their sentences shortened Tuesday by President Barack Obama. Terry Andre Barnes, 40, male, black, East Moline, Illinois. Offense: crack cocaine; supervised release violation (crack cocaine) Prosecuted in: Southern District of Iowa. Sentenced to: 246 months’ imprisonment in 2005. Release date: August 15, 2022. Commutation: Prison sentence expires July 28, 2015. Notes: Read Obama’s commutation letter to Terry here. Theresa Brown, 48, female, black, Pompano Beach, Florida Offense: crack cocaine Prosecuted in: Southern District of Florida Sentenced to: Life imprisonment in 1995. Release date: Death. Commutation: Prison sentence expires July 28, 2015. Notes: “She shrieked with joy,” said federal public defender Michael Caruso when he told her. Theresa’s judge supported her release. Donel Marcus Clark, 51, male, black, Dallas, Texas. Offense: powder cocaine. Prosecuted in: Northern District of Texas Sentenced to: 420 months’ imprisonment in 1993; reduced o 360 months’ imprisonment in 2008. Release date: July 28, 2019. Commutation: Prison sentence expires July 28, 2015. Notes: Perfect behavior record in prison. Donel’s story here. Ricky Bernard Coggins, 52, male, black, Tallahassee, Florida Offense: crack cocaine Prosecuted in: Northern District of Florida Sentence: Life imprisonment in 1993. Release date: Death. Commutation: Prison sentence expires on July 28, 2015.... read more

What freedom looks like

Prisoner Releases Start Under “Drugs Minus Two” David Mosby, 63, dressed in prison garb, enjoyed a mammoth, country-style breakfast with his family a few days ago at a Cracker Barrel restaurant. It was, literally, his first taste of freedom. David, an amazing dad and classic American character, was freed 10 years early from federal prison. He’d been serving a cruel, unjustifiable 40-year/no parole meth sentence since the first George Bush was president. The Missourian’s release is just the beginning of tens of thousands of family reunions just starting under the landmark federal drug sentencing reform, called “Drugs Minus Two.” What’s coming Perhaps 20,000 or 30,000  federal drug prisoners are in the process of having sentences reduced by an average of 19% under Drugs Minus Two. The historic reform was conceived by Julie Stewart and Mary Price of Families Against Mandatory Minimums in 2007 and approved by the U.S. Sentencing Commission in 2014. It’s occurring under the radar because the U.S. Sentencing Commission (a panel of mostly federal judges) did it, rather than Congress or the President. But it’s positive effect on drug prisoners, the scapegoats of the last generation’s drug war folly, will be more profound than anything elected officials have accomplished since screwing up the federal criminal justice system in the 1980s. Who’s helped Methamphetamine offenders will benefit in the greatest numbers, a measure of the insane length of federal meth sentences. (Meth prisoners are a roughly equal mix of poor whites and Hispanics, mostly Mexicans.) Demographically, Hispanics and African-Americans will get nearly 75% of the sentence reductions,  a reflection of the drug war’s racial bias. When the drug... 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

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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.


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

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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.

Human nature

"Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future." -- Oscar Wilde

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.

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