President Obama Shortens Prison Sentences for 61 Inmates

Michael Morris, represented by Pinales Stachler attorney Candace Crouse, a volunteer attorney for the Clemency Project 2014, was one of 61 inmates granted clemency by President Barack Obama on March 30, 2016.  Ms. Crouse, along with her law clerk, Ariel Guggisberg, filed a clemency petition on behalf of Mr. Morris last fall and received word yesterday that the petition was granted .

Ms. Crouse said, “They let me personally deliver the news to Mr. Morris.  It was a very happy, yet emotional, phone call for all of us.  It is moments like this that help me remember why I chose to become a criminal defense attorney.  I could not be more thrilled with the outcome.”

In his first clemency grants since December 2015, President Obama commuted the sentence of 61 federal prisoners who are serving time for drug possession, intent to sell or related crimes.  Most of them are nonviolent offenders, although a few were also charged with firearms violations.  President Obama’s commutation shortens their sentences, with most of the inmates set to be released on July 28, 2016.

President Obama, in a letter to the inmates receiving commutations, said the presidential power to grant commutations and pardons “embodies the basic belief in our democracy that people deserve a second chance after having made a mistake in their lives that led to a conviction under our laws.”

It is important to understand that under current federal law, these prisoners would have already completed their sentences and been released.  Clemency alone cannot fix decades of overly punitive sentencing policies — only broader criminal justice reform can bring justice to the thousands of people behind bars serving unduly harsh and outdated sentences.

Candace Crouse is member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and a volunteer for the Clemency Project 2014.

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