Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Johnson Case is having an Impact on Sentence Relief

Johnson and Presidential Campaign Setting the Stage for Sentence Relief


By Derek Gilna


            Three things came to my attention this week.  First, the Johnson case is a keeper;  courts are using it with little of the hesitancy and generally associated with the judicial system, for an often overlooked reason.  Secondly, it looks like the Presidential campaigns are getting involved in the issue of sentence relief.  Finally, Congress is starting to show signs of moving ahead on the same issue.

 As to Johnson, one must remember that judges, including the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, rarely want to be ground-breakers in their decisions. They are very thin-skinned when it comes to criticism. The Supreme Court gave big hints in recent prisoner-related decisions, such as Alleyne, on how it wanted the circuits to rule on certain issues, but the lower courts didn’t follow through. In the Fair Sentencing Act, lower courts once again had a golden opportunity to release larger numbers of people, but didn’t grant relief nearly as often as it was deserved. However, the Johnson case now gives them a non-controversial way to cut sentences without Congress or law enforcement bodies criticizing them, and there has been zero criticism of these sentence cuts.

Secondly, Bernie Sanders (my favorite socialist), has sharply criticized the punitive American justice system, and has said when Congress returns from recess, “I will be introducing legislation, which takes corporations out of profiteering from running jail.”  He added: “We want to deal with (mandatory) minimum sentencing,” and want to legalize marijuana, which will drive the DOJ crazy.  Although no one (yet) thinks Sanders will win nomination, he is driving the discussion on justice and gaining support as a result, which leads to my last point.

Congress is full of people who make their living doing nothing but talking, and getting paid well for it (kind of like other people we know, right?).   When Sanders, Rand Paul, Clinton, and the US Sentencing Commission talk about justice reform, and even Senator ((Mandatory-Minimum) Grassley is planning to hold hearings this Fall on the new legislation, you’ve got to think something good will happen, and happen soon.

In the meantime, Federal Legal Center will continue to file for sentence relief, be it with a 2255 habeas corpus, with a 2241 for actual innocence or sentence correction, with a federal civil rights complaint for poor medical treatment or compassionate release, or with a letter or phone call to handle other matters like transfers and other services.


Federal Legal Center, Inc., an Illinois not-for profit corporation,

113 McHenry Rd. #173, Buffalo Grove, IL  60089.

(847) 878-0160

Monday, August 3, 2015

Bureau of Prisons Clemency Fails to Live Up to Expectations

Highly-Acclaimed Program Has not Lived Up to the Hype


By Derek Gilna


            Clemency relief is something that caught our imagination many months ago, when the BOP program to apply over Corrlinks got everyone excited.  Recently, however, I have come to the conclusion that the highly-touted BOP clemency process (not private applications) is about as reliable  as that almost daily inmate.com rumor that Congress is about to reduce federal sentences by one-third. With less than 100 petitions granted out of 20,000 funneled through the BOP program, one has almost a better chance of hitting the lottery than getting a BOP-generated clemency.

It’s not that the President’s heart is not in the right place-it is.  You saw that by the fact that he went to El Reno prison.  No matter how many coats of paint you put on a jail, it still looked like a jail, and there was evidence that the experience affected him deeply. (More federal officials and judges should make the same visit.) However, despite the President’s good intentions, it appears that the DOJ, whether intentional or unintentional, has done everything it could to throw sand in the gears of the entire BOP clemency process. 

 Any attorney volunteering (meaning: “unpaid”) for BOP clemency file review has to endure four 90-minute training sessions before they are even sent files to examine.  How likely is it that many of them will follow the process through to completion, given that it is difficult to even get your attorney to call you back if you are a paying client?   It is my opinion that a mere handful of those BOP applications have been put into the system for processing. There is no method by which you can check where you are in the BOP application process.

If you are interested in refilling your clemency application, I would be pleased to do so at reasonable cost without delay.  Time is running out with Obama leaving office in 15 months.

And while it is true that Congress is now finally working on sentence relief, it will take months before we know whether or not there will be sentence relief, and whether it will be retroactive. In the meantime, as always, your best hope of relief is someone with years of navigating the criminal justice system, and will work with you to win sentence relief.

Federal Legal Center, Inc, an Illinois not for profit corporation

Derek A Gilna, Director

P.G. Miller, of counsel

113 McHenry Rd. #173

Buffalo Grove, IL  60089