Cannabis Justice Initative
Pursuing multiple avenues of relief for those directly impacted by a cannabis conviction and its consequences through clemency, compassionate release, expungement, and reform, NACDL has partnered with the Last Prisoner Project to launch the Cannabis Justice Initiative. The project will place these cases for pro bono assistance with private counsel and will provide training and support to the lawyers who are taking cases.
Excessive Sentence Project
The Excessive Sentence Project recruits and trains pro bono attorneys to file compassionate release motions on behalf of individuals in federal prison whose sentences are too long, either because they would receive a much lower sentences today due to intervening changes in the law or because their original sentence was simply unjust.
Trial Penalty Clemency Project
As set forth in the 2018 report authored by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, in conjunction with the Foundation for Criminal Justice, entitled “The Trial Penalty: The Sixth Amendment Right to Trial on the Verge of Extinction and How to Save It,” trial by jury has declined to the point that less than 3% of state and federal criminal cases are tried to a jury. And, as set forth in the Report, many of those individuals who exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to a jury trial are being penalized for doing so.
While society is awakening to the number of wrongs embodied in the trial penalty, there are a number of individuals living the trial penalty as they serve excessively long prison sentences as a result of electing to go to trial and holding the government to its burden. The only remedy for these individuals is executive clemency. The Trial Penalty Clemency Project aims to assist those individuals by pairing Applicants with Volunteer Attorneys who will assist them in preparing a clemency petition.
Reform is needed to end the trial penalty. In the interim, this Project provides an opportunity for a second chance to those individuals who are living it.
Virginia Redemption Project
The purpose of this project is to match currently incarcerated individuals with pro bono lawyers to assist them in completing their clemency petitions. Having counsel through the clemency process greatly increases the chances of success, and this project will help to ensure that those who want to file a conditional pardon and cannot afford a lawyer have access to meaningful review. This project is open to anyone who is currently serving a Virginia state sentence for non-capital offenses, whose case has concluded (all appeals have been exhausted).
While Virginia recognizes three types of pardons, this project will initially focus only on conditional pardons, which are only available to people who are currently incarcerated. A conditional pardon is an act by the Governor to modify or end a sentence imposed by the court. The Governor only grants a conditional pardon when there is substantial evidence of extraordinary circumstances to warrant it.
Through this project, we will screen individuals who are interested in receiving assistance with a conditional pardon based on identified criteria. We will match those individuals with pro bono attorneys to assist them in completing their petition. And throughout the process, we will provide counsel and support to the pro bono attorney. We will also track the outcomes of conditional pardon petitions submitted through this project.
This project is being launched through a joint commitment and shared resources from the NACDL, ACLU of Virginia, FAMM, Justice Forward, Legal Aid Justice Center, and the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.