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36 New Eng. J. on Crim. & Civ. Confinement 59 (2010)
Turning Hope-and-Change Talk into Clemency Action for Nonviolent Drug Offenders

handle is hein.journals/nejccc36 and id is 61 raw text is: Turning Hope-and-Change Talk
Into Clemency Action for
Nonviolent Drug Offenders
Douglas A. Berman*
In 2008, Barack Obama rode the themes of hope and change into the
White House, capitalizing upon profound dissatisfaction with the outgoing
Administration and broad concerns about the country's direction. In his
acceptance speech on election night, then-President-Elect Obama stressed
that the true genius of America [is] that America can change.' In his
Inaugural Address, President Obama described his election victory as
evidence that the American people have chosen hope over fear, unity of
purpose over conflict and discord.2
These themes and words likely resonated with anyone interested in
criminal justice reform, and especially with those eager for drug-sentencing
reform. As I have argued in recent scholarship, America needs change to
come to the structure and operation of its criminal justice systems.3 A
massive increase in incarceration levels in recent decades, fueled in large
part by the so-called war on drugs, has made America the world's leader
in imprisonment by a wide margin. Our incarceration rate is now roughly
*Douglas A. Berman is the William B. Saxbe Designated Professor of Law at the Ohio State
University Moritz College of Law.
1.  Barack Obama, This is Your Victory Speech at Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois
(Nov. 4, 2008), available at 1/04/obama.
2.  President Barack Hussein Obama, Inaugural Address delivered from Washington
D.C. (Jan. 20, 2009), available at
3.  See Douglas A. Berman, Extreme Punishments, in WHEN LAW FAILS: MAKING
SENSE OF MISCARRIAGES OF JUSTICE 163 (Charles Ogletree & Austin Sarat eds., 2008); see
also Douglas A. Berman, The Enduring (and Now Again Timely) Wisdom of the Original
MPC Sentencing Provisions, 61 FLA. L. REv. 709 (2009); Douglas A. Berman, Exploring
the Theory, Policy and Practice of Fixing Broken Sentencing Guidelines, 21 FED. SENT'G
REP. 182 (2009); Douglas A. Berman, Reorienting Progressive Perspectives for
Twenty-First Century Punishment Realities, 3 HARV. L. & POL'Y REV. (Online) (2008),

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