Criminal Justice Clinic Client Has Prison Sentence Commuted by President Obama

On May 5, 2016, President Barack Obama granted a petition for clemency for a client of the Samuel Jacobs Criminal Justice Clinic at Yale Law School.

The client, Jamal Hanson, has served more than 15 years in federal prison for a 22-year sentence as a result of two nonviolent drug offenses. His long prison sentence was mandatory under outdated drug laws that were in effect in the early 2000s, including the arbitrary and discriminatory 100-to-1 powder/crack cocaine sentencing ratio, according to the clinic. As a result of the clemency petition filed by the Clinic, Mr. Hanson will be released on September 2, 2016.

"Mr. Hanson is a person deeply deserving of clemency, and it has been a privilege to work with him on this effort,” said Alexander Schultz ’17, a second-year law student working on Hanson's case. “His loving family is excited to welcome him home in September.”

"There are thousands of people in federal prison serving decades-long sentences because of over-punitive drug laws that have since been changed, but are not retroactive,” added Avinash Samarth ’16, a third-year law student working on Mr. Hanson's case. “Mr. Hanson was one of those people. We look forward to the President commuting many other unjust sentences during his last months in office.”

The Samuel Jacobs Criminal Justice Clinic at Yale Law School provides students with a hands-on experience representing clients in criminal cases, both on the local level in New Haven and through clemency petition work on the federal level. The clinic is currently working on clemency petitions for two other clients.

President Obama commuted the sentences of 57 other inmates last week as part of his ongoing initiative to release federal prisoners who have received severe mandatory sentences for non-violent drug offenses. Since the President launched this clemency initiative two years ago, thousands of inmates have applied. There are currently more than 9,000 petitions pending, according to news reports.