With just over 60 days left in office, President Barack Obama is being urged to make good on his promise to grant clemency to thousands of non-violent drug offenders serving life sentences in prison.
During Thursday’s edition of NewsOne Now, Roland Martin spoke with relatives of inmates who may die behind bars if the president doesn’t come through. They are skeptical their request for clemency will fall on deaf ears during a Trump administration.
Nkechi Taifa, William Underwood‘s family attorney, hopes the door to clemency will not be shut. Underwood was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his first and only felony under a mandatory minimum sentence as a drug offender.
Without a clemency order from President Obama, Underwood could die in prison.
Taifa told Martin, “Clemencies under conservative presidents have not necessarily been less than under Democratic presidents … We are hoping that the momentum that the Obama Administration has initiated will, in fact, continue into the Trump Administration.
“However we know that Obama has a little over 60 days to continue and expand and greatly accelerate the clemency initiative that he has started and we are pleading him to go bold and commute as many sentences as he can while he is still in office.”
President-elect Trump has been critical of President Obama’s position on clemency and ran a campaign focused on “law and order,” a major concern as clemency advocates look forward to the future.
Brittany Byrd, Attorney and Campaign Director of Cut50, told Martin, “It is imperative upon us as attorneys and activists in this space to open hearts and minds going into this next administration to show that these are not hardened criminals that are receiving clemency.”
She continued, “These are people who are truly deserving of the mercy they are receiving and they’ve been vetted thoroughly by the Department of Justice…It’s not as if President Obama is granting clemency willy-nilly to anyone who applies.”
On Monday, Cut50, an organization that looks to cut the United States’ prison population in half, brought over 70 families of potential clemency recipients to Washington, D.C. for a two-day advocacy effort. For many of these families, the election of Donald Trump and his inauguration on January 20th, 2017 may signify a heartbreaking deadline in their efforts to get loved ones released.
Watch Roland Martin and his panel of guests discuss their clemency advocacy efforts in the video clip above.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty