Wednesday, December 22, 2010

An Example to Follow

Long-time FAMM friend Kemba Smith celebrates the 10-year anniversary of the commutation she received from President Bill Clinton with this moving piece on CNN today.

Kemba Smith Pradia
Kemba uses the story of her rehabilitation and commutation to urge President Obama to build on the non-retroactive crack reforms passed earlier this year by commuting the sentences of crack offenders who won't benefit from the new law:
That there was bipartisan support for crack cocaine sentencing reform this year, a time of heightened political discontent, is a testament to the intolerable nature of these excessive sentences. But the Fair Sentencing Act is not retroactive, and so it does not help anyone serving time today under the law that both Congress and the president agree is unfair. This cruel treatment should not be allowed to continue, and my experience should serve as an example.
Through the power of commutation, Obama can provide relief to prisoners serving excessive sentences. While the president's clemency track record is bleak -- he has yet to issue any commutations since taking office -- I am hopeful he will see that justice requires his attention and that changing the lives of men and women in prison deserves his action.
Well said.  The pardon power -- which includes the power to shorten (or "commute") sentences for rehabilitated or unjustly sentenced offenders -- has long been used to fix flawed sentences, especially when the law provides no other relief. Congress should make the recent crack law reforms retroactive so that everyone gets their benefit. But unless and until Congress does, President Obama should remember the pardon power -- and use it to bring relief to people serving unfair sentences like the one Kemba is no longer serving.