The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) hosted a forum this past December, in partnership with the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, for a conversation about clemency following efforts by President Joe Biden and Oregon Ex-Governor Kate Brown, who both categorically pardoned people with convictions for marijuana possession.
The panel included Ex-Governor Kate Brown of Oregon, Michael Thompson, a formerly incarcerated advocate and founder of the Michael Thompson Clemency Project and New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin. Thompson and Brown received the inaugural 2022 Lewis Conway Jr. Leadership in Clemency Award during the event.
Walk 4 Change co-founder Joe Grumbine CEO of The Human Solution Institute, worked with Michael Thompson extensively including raising money to help with his re-entry and medical needs and doing a series of interviews.
“When we talk about clemency, we’re talking about giving hope to people who feel there is nothing they can do,” said Michael Thompson during the event. “These sentences that are stacked and trap people need to be seriously re-evaluated. I would still be in prison if it wasn’t for people fighting for me and fighting to fix a system that is broken.”
When he announced the pardons last month, White House officials said Biden’s pardons would extend to over 6,500 individuals with prior convictions for simple marijuana possession.
Kate Brown estimates her clemency will lead to pardons for some 45,000 people convicted of simply possessing marijuana.
“The one-size-fits-all approach that mass incarceration relies on is rooted in racism,” Brown said during the event. “And as a country, we must rethink this approach. Clemency is a powerful tool that can help right the wrongs we know exist in our criminal legal system."