Information for Families
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Clemency?
Clemency is the process whereby the President uses the authority of his office to reduce a sentence of a person currently in prison.
What is the process?
After Clemency Project volunteer lawyers determine that an applicant meets the criteria and prepares a petition, the petition is submitted to the Office of the Pardon Attorney in the Department of Justice. The Office of the Pardon Attorney will review the petition and decide whether it should go to the President. The President will decide whether to grant clemency.
What are the criteria?
According to the criteria released by the Justice Department, prisoners must be:
- currently serving a federal sentence in prison and, by operation of law, likely would have received a substantially lower sentence if convicted of the same offense(s) today;
- have a non-violent, low-level offenders without significant ties to large-scale criminal organizations, gangs, or cartels;
- have served at least 10 years of their sentence;
- have no have a significant criminal history;
- have demonstrated good conduct in prison; and
- have no history of violence prior to or during their current term of imprisonment.
How much does my loved one have to pay for help?
Clemency Project 2014 lawyers provide pro bono assistance which means there is no charge to applicants.
Will it improve my loved one’s chance if they both write to the project and complete the survey?
No. Duplicate requests slow the process down.
Can you tell me if you have received a request from my loved one?
No. For privacy reasons we cannot provide information to anyone other than the applicant. Each applicant will receive correspondence from Clemency Project 2014 or a volunteer lawyer assigned to the applicant.
What can I do to help my loved one?
Please be patient, we have received more than 20,000 applications and each one must be thoroughly reviewed, this will take time. You should also communicate with your loved one frequently. You may want to gather documents that may assist in the project, for example, if someone has offered your loved one a job or a place to live you can gather documents reflecting this progress. You may also want to gather letters from others reflecting support for your loved one.
Should I call Clemency Project 2014 periodically to check up on the progress of my loved one’s application?
No. For privacy reasons we cannot provide information to anyone other than the applicant. Also, this slows the process down.
How long will the process take?
It depends. Before a petition can be filed, a lawyer must review documents from your loved one’s case. Remember the cases are at least 10 years old. Some documents may be archived or otherwise difficult to locate. Once the documents are located, a lawyer can analyze whether your loved one meets the criteria and provide advice about how to proceed.