Clemency and Restorative Justice

I am delighted to link to my colleague, Michael O’Hear’s, blog post about the success of our clemency clinic at Marquette. In the last batch of pardons from President Obama, two of the men on whose behalf Michael and our students were working, were granted pardons. This is, of course, wonderful for them and their families and a terrific learning experience for the students as well. What struck me, in particular, about the form letter that President Obama sent to one of the men was the language the President used and how similar that language is to the description of restorative justice.  Below is part of the letter:

The power to grant pardons and clemency is one of the most profound authorities granted to the President of the United States. It 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. Thousands of individuals have applied for commutation, and only a fraction of these applications are approved.

I am granting your application because you have demonstrated the potential to turn your life around. Now it is up to you to make the most of this opportunity. It will not be easy, and you will confront many who doubt people with criminal records can change. Perhaps even you are unsure of how you will adjust to your new circumstances.

But remember that you have the capacity to make good choices. By doing so, you will affect not only your own life, but those close to you. You will also influence, through your example, the possibility that others in your circumstances get their own second chance in the future.

I believe in your ability to prove the doubters wrong, and change your life for the better.

One thought on “Clemency and Restorative Justice”

  1. I would hope that such restorative and reformative measures are the goal of criminal justice. Every time the rehabilitation of a criminal is successful, the rights of everyone are expanded.

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