Obama Seeks Clemency Candidates: Publius Talks Restorative Justice and 2nd Emancipation Proclamation

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With the Justice Department seeking clemency candidates, the Obama administration is signaling an openness to new approaches to the drug war. Dan Linn, of Publius and The Cannabis Papers: A citizen’s guide to cannabinoids, applauds the call for clemency; he also highlights Illinois’ right to restorative justice next to Obama’s power to pardon and notes a (symbolic) pathway to a 2nd Emancipation Proclamation.

The Cannabis Papers (2011)

The founders thought the pardon could be used to ‘restore tranquility’ – you know, to heal a nation.

The New York Times reported Jan. 30, in Justice Dept. Starts Quest for Inmates to Be Freed, US Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole’s recent request for clemency candidates; while addressing the New York State Bar Association, Cole said, “This is where you can help.”

“Help indeed,” noted Dan Linn, Executive Director of the Illinois chapter of NORML and part of Publius and The Cannabis Papers, “as there’s been a lot of harm.”

The article quotes Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and his recent statement that the Prison system accounted for 30 percent of the Justice Department’s budget, straining law enforcement resources; it also notes: “Prison officials will spread the word among inmates that low-level, nonviolent drug offenders might be eligible to apply for clemency.”

Clemency is mercy or lenience toward an offense; pardon is forgiving an offense.

“Clemency is great, though it’s not a pardon,” remarked Linn, “nor is it restorative justice; Illinois has a restorative justice clause in our Bill of Rights (Section 11). It’s the idea that with a criminal sentence there is also rehabilitation; the federal equivalent available to President Obama is a constitutional pardon.”

Section 11 of Illinois’ Bill of Rights, Limitation of Penalties After Conviction (Restorative Justice), states: All penalties shall be determined both according to the seriousness of the offense and with the objective of restoring the offender to useful citizenship.

Linn continued: “There’s been a lot of harm, so something significant needs to be said in order to heal, something symbolic. A constitutional pardon, as a 2nd Emancipation Proclamation, might work. The first freed slaves and noted a wrong; a second would free citizens and note a wrong: the mass incarceration and miscarriage of justice we call the drug war.”

“The idea of a healing pardon is in essay 74 of The Federalist Papers,” Linn closed, “as the founders thought the pardon could be used to ‘restore tranquility’ – you know, to heal a nation.”

The Cannabis Papers: A citizen’s guide to cannabinoids (2011) is available at online retailers and for free by download.

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