In recent years, the Center has launched multiple initiatives that highlight the need for clemency reform as one way to address the consequences of mass incarceration. The Center’s faculty director, Segal Family Professor of Regulatory Law and Policy Rachel Barkow, has been a tireless advocate for structural clemency reform efforts through her legal scholarship, including “Clemency and the Unitary Executive,” and “Restructuring Clemency: The Cost of Ignoring Clemency and a Plan for Renewal,” co-authored with Mark Osler, Robert and Marion Short Distinguished Chair in Law of University of St. Thomas School of Law.
In response to the Obama Administration’s call for clemency petitions from people incarcerated in federal prisons, the Center established two pop-up legal services initiatives to assist individuals with their petitions. In 2013, the Mercy Project, with generous funding from a private donor, pursued sentencing reductions or commutations for individuals incarcerated in federal prison on the ground that they demonstrated remarkable rehabilitation or suffered from serious medical conditions. In 2015, with generous funding from Open Society Foundations, Barkow, along with Osler, co-founded the Clemency Resource Center.
Between 2014 and 2016, The Mercy Project and the CRC filed a total of approximately 200 petitions for clemency relief with the Office of the Pardon Attorney. We were thrilled to report that of those individuals, many of whom were serving life sentences for nonviolent drug offenses, the President granted clemency relief and freedom to 96 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 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.”
In an effort to keep momentum going for federal clemency reform, and to impart the lessons learned from The Mercy Project and the CRC, the Center has written a report profiling worthy people who were not granted clemency by President Obama and analyzing his administration's clemency initiative. Read it here.