The Center has established itself as a leading advocate for clemency reform.  In recent years, the Center has launched multiple initiatives designed to highlight the need for clemency reform as one way to address the consequences of mass incarceration.  In the summer of 2013, the Center established the Mercy Project. The mission of the Mercy Project is to pursue sentencing reductions or commutations for federal prisoners who have demonstrated remarkable rehabilitation, or who suffer from serious medical conditions. As such, we serve as both a “second look” center and a clemency center. Our student fellows are integral to the success of the Mercy Project.  Each student fellow, working with Center staff, has been involved in the research, drafting and filing of petitions for clemency relief with the Office of the Pardon Attorney.  As discussed in more detail below, their tireless work has been instrumental in helping our clients obtain their freedom. 

In July 2015, Faculty Director and New York University Law Professor Rachel Barkow, along with University of St. Thomas Law Professor Mark Osler, co-founded the Clemency Resource Center (CRC), a pop-up legal services office housed within the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law at NYU law school.  The CRC is funded by the Open Society Foundations for one year with the sole purpose of preparing and submitting federal clemency petitions at no cost to prisoners.  Staffed with seven full-time attorneys, the CRC provides additional resources to represent federal inmates seeking commutations, with the express purpose of making the Clemency Project 2014 more effective in its task of aiding President Obama in identifying and promoting the cases of worthy clemency petitioners.  Simply stated, we created a “factory of justice” within the Center, utilizing both a full-time staff and our student fellows focused on a common goal to get worthy clemency petitions to the President’s desk.

In 2015 and 2016, our Center, through both the Mercy Project and the CRC, filed a total of approximately 200 petitions for clemency relief with the Office of the Pardon Attorney.   We are thrilled to report that of those individuals, many of whom are serving life sentences for nonviolent drug offenses, the President has granted clemency relief and freedom to 36 of our clients.

In recognition of our efforts to pursue freedom on behalf of nonviolent drug offenders seeking clemency, our student fellows were awarded the inaugural “Making a Difference Award” by newly installed University President Andrew Hamilton.  This university-wide award recognized members of the NYU community who “have made a lasting impact for the better on the city, region, nation, or globe.”  Each of our 11 student fellows has worked or will work on multiple clemency petitions, and their impact in helping secure freedom for our clients and reconnecting them to their families is immeasurable.

The Center’s Faculty Director Rachel Barkow has been a tireless advocate for structural clemency reform efforts through her legal scholarship, with her recently published article “Clemency and the Unitary Executive” in the New York University Law Review, and “Restructuring Clemency: The Cost of Ignoring Clemency and a Plan for Renewal,” co-authored with University of St. Thomas law professor Mark Osler, in the Chicago Law Review.

CACL has worked on clemency cases and reform of the pardon process since 2013 as part of the Mercy Project, an initiative that pursues commutations for federal prisoners who are serving very long sentences for typically non-violent drug crimes. “The Clemency Resource Center is the latest step in our efforts to improve criminal justice in the United States and to help correct past miscarriages of justice,” said Barkow, faculty director for CACL. During its year of operation, the CRC will utilize the talents of CACL student fellows as well as of CACL executive director Deborah Gramiccioni, a former federal prosecutor in New Jersey and at the US Department of Justice in Washington, DC.


Clemency Resource Center
NYU School of Law
Wilf Hall
139 MacDougal Street, Third Floor
New York, NY 10012

(212) 998 6239