As convener of the Justice Roundtable, I am thrilled that our advocacy in the area of executive clemency has culminated in some very exciting and memorable moments for formerly incarcerated people who have been granted clemency. On March 30-31, we successfully coordinated the attendance of nearly 30 commutation recipients from the Obama, Bush, Clinton and Ford eras, along with family members of commutation applicants, to come to Washington, DC – seven of whom were selected by the President to join him for a private lunch at Busboys and Poets restaurant. This lunch directly followed the President’s March 30th announcement of 61 new commutation grants. I am so very proud that Ramona Brant, Norman Brown, Phillip Emmett, Angie Jenkins, Serena Nunn, Michael Short, and Kemba Smith, had the opportunity for this unique and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with the President. See a snippet here.
President Obama’s announcement and private lunch occurred as part of the myriad of criminal justice and clemency advocacy engaged in by Justice Roundtable participants – the latest being the March 31st Conversations on Justice with Shaka Senghor, whose seminal book, Writing my Wrongs is a tale of forgiveness, hope and second chances, and reminds us that our worst deeds don’t define who we are, which preceded an historic White House briefing, “Life After Clemency.”
President Obama’s special advisor Valerie Jarrett announced at a Women and Criminal Justice White House convening today that the President, after dining with the commutation recipients, stated that he “has felt this enormous sense of urgency,” and she also stressed that going forward, every commutation recipient “does not have to be squeaky clean.” Read her White House blog post. It is our hope that our President was so moved by the men and women he met and dined with, that he will do everything he can to grant as many clemency applications as possible so that they can return home to their families and loved ones.