About | HeinOnline Law Journal Library | HeinOnline Law Journal Library | HeinOnline

25 Berkeley J. Crim. L. 1 (2020)

handle is hein.journals/bjcl25 and id is 1 raw text is: 






    President Obama's Misunderstood

                  Clemency Initiative


                      James  Russell  Sunshine*


      President  Obama's  Clemency  Initiative resulted in the commuta-
tion of1, 696federal sentences. Despite this achievement, some advocates
of a more robust use of executive clemency criticize the initiative as overly
bureaucratic, chaotic, and limited. This article argues that these criti-
cisms stem from  a combination  of misunderstandings  of and disagree-
ments with the Obama  administration's actual goals. Through exclusive
and  in-depth interviews conducted by the author with high ranking offi-
cials from the Obama White House, Department   of Justice, and Clemency
Initiative 2014, this article shows that administration officials did not en-
vision the initiative as a substitute for broader criminal justice reform
legislation. Rather, the administration viewed the initiative as a limited,
time-specific remedy to help alleviate a particular unfairness: inmates
serving excessively long sentences based on the date they were sentenced.
Placed  in its proper context, this article argues that many of the aspects
of the Clemency Initiative that have been criticized were features neces-
sary for the initiative's success, as defined by the administration.

In tro d u ctio n ....................................................................................... . .   2
I. The Scope and Categories of Executive Clemency  ......................... 5
II. W hat Led to the Clem ency Initiative?............................................... 11
      A.   President Obama's Unique  Commitment   to Clemency........ 11
      B.   The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 and Retroactive

DOI: https://doi.org/10.15779/Z389G5GF02.
*  University of Michigan Law School. Former Research Associate in the White House
Office of Communications (2015-17) and Fellow at the University of Michigan's Pro-
gram in Race, Law & History (2018-19). For their suggestions and edits, I am indebted
to the editors of the Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law. I am deeply appreciative of Pro-
fessor Kate Andrias, those who took part in the University of Michigan's Program in
Race, Law & History, and for my family and friends who supported me during this en-
deavor. I also want to thank those who generously agreed to be interviewed for this arti-
cle, both for the access they provided and for their work as public servants, activists, and
attorneys.

What Is HeinOnline?

HeinOnline is a subscription-based resource containing nearly 3,000 academic and legal journals from inception; complete coverage of government documents such as U.S. Statutes at Large, U.S. Code, Federal Register, Code of Federal Regulations, U.S. Reports, and much more. Documents are image-based, fully searchable PDFs with the authority of print combined with the accessibility of a user-friendly and powerful database. For more information, request a quote or trial for your organization below.



Short-term subscription options include 24 hours, 48 hours, or 1 week to HeinOnline with pricing starting as low as $29.95

Contact us for annual subscription options:

Already a HeinOnline Subscriber?

profiles profiles most