Late last week, a group of congressional legislators put forth a measure aimed at streamlining the presidential clemency process, with backers arguing that it could help manage mass incarceration driven by disciplinary policies such as the war on drugs.
Representatives. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Cori Bush (D-MO), alongside Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), are overseeing the charge of the Fair and Independent Experts in Clemency (FIX Clemency) Act, with nearly upwards of a dozen additional backers also marked on. Furthermore, the cannabis legislation would take amnesty review authority away from the Justice Department and launch a new independent panel formed of presidential designees to promote relief for those with certain federal cannabis convictions.
Cannabis advocates have long faulted the current executive pardon system, which includes submitting requisitions to the DOJ’s Office of the Pardon Attorney. They debate that the influence of those involved in law enforcement in evaluating clemency cases makes the measure intrinsically problematic.
Naturally, the president can grant pardons without the Justice Department’s blessing—a right that Former President Donald Trump often utilized, for instance—however, the legislators say that it’s still required to reform the current system to guarantee that all worthy cases are ID’d. That encompasses those impacted by the failed war on drugs.
“Backed by the failed war on drugs, the mass incarceration problem that our country faces has decimated lives, families, and neighborhoods,” Jeffries stated in a press release. “Our flawed pardoning system only exacerbates this pain, and we must change it in a just, fair, and diaphanous manner.”
Pressley stated that the country’s “increasing mass incarceration problem is embedded in white supremacy and has destroyed our neighborhoods, destabilized homes, and pressed generational trauma for too long.”
“Our measure would encounter this crisis head-on by changing our broken pardoning system—which is afflicted by secrecy, inefficiency, and systemic prepossession—and instead focusing on justice, equity, and clarity,” she stated. “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
Under the bill, the president would be authorized to appoint nine members to the U.S. Clemency Board. Those appointees should possess “influential experience with the criminal law system, amnesty, behavioral health, or social reentry services,” the text of the measure implies.
Selectees must have at least one constituent who was formerly imprisoned, somebody who was presently impacted by crime, an individual with experience at a federal defender community, and a spokesperson of the Justice Department.
The board would be tasked with reviewing applications for amnesty, commutations, or relief from collateral effects of cannabis convictions. Its guidance would be transmitted verbatim to the president of the United States. The amnesty panel would also submit a yearly report to U.S. Congress that notes relevant aspects of applicants, including age, gender, ethnicity, sexual preference, disability, level of offense, years imprisoned, and geographical locale.
“When it comes to de-imprisonment, neighborhoods like my own in St. Louis that have been throttled by mass incarceration and a wasteful war on drugs cannot stand for any more false justifications,” Bush stated. “President Biden can grant amnesty with the slide of a pen, and this measure will help President Biden do just that. By forming an independent board to alleviate the backlog of more than 18,000 clemency requests, our measure will provide that humanity, compassion, and love for our neighborhood members are at the center of our cannabis policy work. This important legislation will save lives.”
There have been a variety of cries to President Joe Biden to use his power to pardon people, specifically those who have been jailed over basic cannabis crimes. But the President so far reserved his pardoning power to ‘Thanksgiving turkeys.’
Early this Spring, 37 congressional legislators sent a memo to Biden, demanding him to use executive power to issue mass pardons for those with federal cannabis convictions on their criminal records. Three members who led that memo sent a follow-up earlier this month, reiterating the demand for presidential relief from cannabis crimes.