ACLU Pushes to Release 50,000 Inmates from US Prisons to Combat 'Systemic Injustice'
American Civil Liberties Union launches new effort for 'mass clemency'
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is preparing to launch a new effort to free thousands of prisoners from prisons across America by lobbying governors to grant "mass clemency" in response to "systemic injustice."
The effort aims to "liberate" 50,000 prisoners in order to "transform the concept of clemency from a case-by-case extension of individual mercy into an essential systemic response to decades of racist, punitive, and degrading incarceration."
Otherwise known as "The Redemption Campaign," the organization will pressure constituents and affect gubernatorial campaigns amid calls for change to the criminal justice system.
The groups which the ALCU are targeting for clemency include:
- Older incarcerated people
- Those convicted of drug distribution and possession offenses
- People who would have received a lesser sentence if convicted under current laws
ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said: "Across the country, people are rising up to demand change."
"They are calling for an end to the systemic racism that has defined so much of the American experience, particularly in the criminal legal system," Romero continued.
“There are 1.3 million people trapped in state prisons, most of whom are Black and Brown and all of whom are being denied real opportunity for hope, healing, and redemption," Romero added.
"Governors across the country could — and must — bring an end to this, and many of them have the power to do that unilaterally through the power of clemency."
The effort is said to fuel the debate surrounding criminal justice reform, granting voting rights to felons.
Last month, California moved to free around 8,000 prison inmates early to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus in-state prisons.
The move is expected to see over half of the prisoners return to society.
Releasing prisoners early will help improve social distancing rules, isolation, and quarantine measures, according to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Former Vice President Joe Biden's role in the passage and enactment of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act has been widely attacked by Republicans for devastating the Black communities through mass incarceration.
But Democrats have accused President Trump of perpetuating the systemic racism targeted by the ACLU.
Trump, however, argues that he's made dramatic reforms to sentencing and given criminals a second chance through the First Step Act.
The ACLU claims that 1.3 million people are incarcerated with "hundreds of thousands" who are "trapped by extraordinarily long and punitive sentences that were never warranted in the first place."
Socialist Bernie Sanders last year faced backlash for saying felons should have the right to vote.
“As it happens in my own state of Vermont, from the very first days of our state’s history, what our constitution says is that everybody can vote,” Sanders said at the time.
"That is true. So people in jail can vote."