Federal Bill Would Reform U.S. Clemency System, Address Mass Incarceration Crisis

Ayanna Pressley in 2020. Photo by John Tlumacki/Globe Staff(metro)

By Carson Eschen

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressional Representatives Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Cori Bush (MO-01) and Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08) a new legislation Friday dedicated to reforming the nation’s clemency system and addressing the mass incarceration crisis.

The bill, called the Fair and Independent Experts in Clemency (FIX Clemency) Act, would shift responsibility for reviewing applications for presidential clemency from the Department of Justice (DOJ) to a new, independent U.S. Clemency Board.

This board would consist of nine people, to be appointed by the President, and would have to include at least one formerly incarcerated member. It would review all clemency applications, and would submit recommendations to the President and an annual report to Congress.

Advocates argue that the new board would help address issues of prosecutorial and law enforcement bias present in the DOJ, as well as address the current backlog of more than 15,000 pending applications. It would also ensure no one DOJ staffer could prevent any case from being considered by the president.

Rep. Pressley stated that “Our growing mass incarceration crisis is rooted in white supremacy and has ravaged our communities, destabilized families, and exacerbated generational trauma for far too long.

“Our bill would confront this crisis head-on by transforming our broken clemency system—which is plagued by secrecy, inefficiency, and systemic bias—and instead centering justice, equity, and transparency. Justice delayed is justice denied.”

“Congress and the Biden Administration have an obligation to end the era of mass criminalization.” said Rep. Bush. “President Biden can grant clemency with a stroke of pen and this bill will help him do that.”

The bill has been co-sponsored by 16 other U.S. Representatives, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, and is endorsed by numerous legal advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union.

Catherine Sevcenko, Senior Counsel at the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, said she supports the bill.

“Clemency is not a gift. Receiving It should not be like winning the lottery. Clemency is a power given to the President so he or she can be the ‘fail safe in the mechanism of justice. The FIX Act is desperately needed to take the clemency power out of the Department of Justice and give it to an independent Commission,” Sevcenko added.

About The Author

Carson Eschen is a fourth year Political Science and Philosophy double major at UC Santa Barbara. He plans on becoming a lawyer.

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1 Comment

  1. Keith Olson

    The bill has been co-sponsored by 16 other U.S. Representatives, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, and is endorsed by numerous legal advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union.

    Ha, what could go wrong with support like that?

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