The enactment of lengthy no-parole sentences and the atrophy of other statutory early release mechanisms has placed unusual demands on the clemency mechanism in recent years, notably in the federal system. Similarly, an increase in the number and severity of collateral penalties has made pardon the only way most people with a criminal record can pay their debt to society. As Enlightenment philosophers recognized, clemency was never intended to substitute for a well-functioning legal system. With all due respect to Alexander Hamilton, in today’s world it is questionable whether a politician is “a more eligible dispenser of the mercy of the government” than a court.
The American Law Institute recently approved a revision of the sentencing articles of the Model Penal Code, the first such revision in 60 years. The revised MPC includes provisions intended to reduce the need for executiveclemency, in two ways. First, the MPC provides authority for courts to reduce prison sentences in situations where circumstances have fundamentally changed. Second, the MPC proposes a comprehensive scheme for managing the collateral consequences of conviction that makes courts the primary source of relief. Former U.S. Pardon Attorney Margaret Love, currently the Executive Director of the Collateral Consequences Resource Center, will discuss the merits and potential consequences of these proposed MPC reforms.
- Margaret Love, Law Office of Margaret Love
- Moderator: John Malcolm, Director, Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, and Ed Gilbertson and Sherry Lindberg Gilbertson Senior Legal Fellow, The Heritage Foundation