Clemency Project seeks sentences more appropriate to the crime

    Attorney Mary Gay Scanlon talks with Dave Heller at WHYY. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    Attorney Mary Gay Scanlon talks with Dave Heller at WHYY. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    Barack Obama will become the first president to visit a federal prison Thursday when he tours the El Reno facility in Oklahoma. 

    The visit comes on the heels of his Tuesday address to the NAACP Convention in Philadelphia that focused on reforming the criminal justice system.

    He also mentioned clemency, for inmates he has spared already and those who should get relief through a program organized by the U.S. Department of Justice.

    Since its launch in April of last year, the Clemency Project has received 35,000 requests from federal inmates. 

    “The Department of Justice  doesn’t have sufficient personnel to review all those applications,” said Mary Gay Scanlon, pro bono counsel for the Ballard Spahr firm.

    “So they’ve called on the national private bar to help screen those petitions. The American Bar Association, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and an array of civil rights groups have recruited individuals and trained them to do that work,”  she said.

    Eighty-five volunteers from the Philadelphia firm have been participating in the project.

    Scanlon spoke about the Clemency Project and its goals with NewsWorks Tonight’s Dave Heller.

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