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May 18, 2022

Pressley, Joyce, Scanlon, Armstrong Call for Demographic Data on Backlog of Clemency Applications

Text of Letter (PDF)

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), along with Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), Congressman David Joyce (OH-14), and Congressman Kelly Armstrong (ND-AL) urged Pardon Attorney Elizabeth Oyer to release disaggregated demographic data on the more than 17,000 pending clemency applications to better understand the current broken clemency process and address its impacts on constituents and communities.

“Clemency is an innate part of our nation’s legal system and is expressly mentioned in the United States Constitution,” the lawmakers wrote. “Despite the current lag, it remains a significant tool to rectify injustices and reduce prison populations. The federal government has a responsibility to ensure the clemency process is unfettered and accessible to all.”

However, the massive number of clemency petitions undermines the promise of a fair and just criminal legal system. In their letter, the lawmakers asked Pardon Attorney Oyer to provide a report by June 7, 2022 on all pending clemency applications detailing applicant demographic data, month and year of application submission, representation by an attorney, type of clemency request, type of relief sought, type of offense(s), and office currently reviewing application.

“Every application represents a person, a family, and a community,” the lawmakers continued. “And every delayed response represents a miscarriage of justice, a dysfunctional process, and a policy failure in desperate need of repair.”

In December, Rep. Pressley, along with Representatives Cori Bush (MO-01), Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08) and grassroots advocates, unveiled the Fair and Independent Experts in Clemency (FIX Clemency) Act, historic legislation to transform our nation’s broken clemency system and address the mass incarceration crisis. 

Earlier this year, Rep. Pressley applauded President Biden for using his clemency authority to pardon 78 individuals. Rep. Pressley has been a leading voice in Congress calling for President Biden to use his clemency authority to address mass incarceration and begin to heal the hurt and harm of our broken criminal legal system.

In March 2021, Rep. Pressley and Rep. Bush headlined a rally with the National Council For Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls at which they urged President Biden to grant clemency to 100 women in his first 100 days. 

Under the framework of the People’s Justice Guarantee, Rep. Pressley has also introduced legislation to end the federal death penaltydismantle mass incarceration for the public health, and disrupt the school-to-confinement pathway

Rep. Pressley has also urged President Biden to use his authority to halt federal executions and commute the sentences of those on death row, and has urged the Trump Administration and governors to adopt guidelines for decarceration to reduce the prison population during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In September, Rep. Pressley joined Reps. Bush, Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), David Trone (MD-06) and Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and over 20 of their colleagues in sending a letter to the Biden Administration urging the President to commute the sentences of the more than 4,000 people who were released on home confinement in 2020 as part of an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.