President Obama: Please put an end to illegal mass incarceration
The mass incarceration epidemic has done unbelievable harm to thousands of American families who have yet to see any form of meaningful relief from the nation's first black president. To make matters even worse, many of these individuals remain incarcerated illegally. According to Alec Karakatsanis, a civil rights attorney writing for The New York Times, "President Obama used his clemency power to reduce the sentences of 46 federal prisoners locked up on drug-related charges. But for the last six years, his administration has worked repeatedly behind the scenes to ensure that tens of thousands of poor people — disproportionately minorities — languish in federal prison on sentences declared by the courts, and even the president himself, to be illegal and unjustifiable." Karakatsanis points to the case of Ezell Gilbert, who was given 24 years and four months for possessing 50 grams of crack cocaine in 1997 with the intent to distribute. Even Gilbert's sentencing judge said that his sentence was too harsh. Years later, Gilbert filed a second petition arguing (correctly) that his rights had been violated through the misclassification of one of his offenses. In this case the Obama Administration argued that, even though Gilbert remained in prison illegally, he should not be released, because it is against the rules for an inmate to file two petitions for his case. The court argued that the "finality" of the sentence should be more important advocating for justice itself. This is wrong. President Obama knows this, Attorney General Loretta Lynch knows this, and nearly any free-thinking American knows this. Mr. Gilbert isn't the only inmate who has been wronged by the justice system, there are thousands of American citizens who've experienced the same irreparable harm. While their children get older and their loved ones die, thousands of inmates remain incarcerated due to illegal sentences that resulted from America's ill-fated and unsuccessful War on Drugs. Even President Obama himself has said that these sentences were too harsh, which means that he and his administration should be leading the charge to release those who've been illegally incarcerated. Judge James Hill, an 87-year old conservative said that a “judicial system that values finality over justice is morally bankrupt." He also went on to say this: “The government hints that there are many others in Gilbert’s position — sitting in prison serving sentences that were illegally imposed. We used to call such systems ‘gulags.’ Now, apparently, we call them the United States.” Mr. President, you have the power to end American gulags. The fact that most of those affected are poor, black and brown should be no excuse for your administration to ignore what amounts to one of the most glaring symbols of injustice in the history of the world. President Obama, we ask that you use your power of clemency to release ALL illegally incarcerated Americans, and to, as Mr. Karakatsanis suggests, appoint a special counsel to review changes in the law to ensure the release of those whose sentences have been ruled retroactively illegal. This shouldn't take much persuading from the American people because it is the right thing to do. We demand immediate action from you President Obama, for there are too many families suffering due to illegal incarceration.