Michigan Residents Advocate for Expanded Clemency in Cannabis Cases and Beyond

September 25th, 2023 Events & Conferences
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In Lansing, Michigan, the push for expanded clemency is gaining momentum as hundreds converge upon the Capitol, rallying with the sweet incentive of complimentary Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Advocates are calling for Governor Whitmer's decisive intervention to address the long shadows of mass incarceration, particularly in cases tied to marijuana. Join the passionate advocates on the Capitol steps in Lansing, MI, from 3 to 5pm on Saturday, September 30th.

"Clemency is Governor Whitmer's empowerment to usher individuals out of confinement with just her signature," expressed Michael Thompson, Board President of the Michael Thompson Clemency Project. Thompson, a beacon of hope for many, was granted clemency by Governor Whitmer in 2021 after an overwhelming 25 years imprisoned due to a cannabis sale conviction.

Distinguished guests, including Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein, MI U.S. Senate hopeful and prison reform advocate Hill Harper, Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit, and leaders from criminal justice reform organizations, will amplify the call. Their voices will be joined by those who know the prison system firsthand: the formerly incarcerated and families still under its weight.

Ben and Jerry's contribution to the cause extends beyond frozen delights. As part of a broader national movement, the ice cream brand is urging governors across the country to endorse clemency for all marijuana-associated convictions, highlighting their commitment here.

This event will spotlight poignant tales of justice-impacted citizens, emphasizing the urgent need for mass clemency. Tina Talbot, for instance, served time for what many deem an act of self-defense, protecting herself and her son from her husband. Nancy Seaman's harrowing journey, conveyed by Justice Thru Storytelling Founder Kelle Lynn, underscores the dire situation of many battered women in Michigan's prison system.

Driving home the urgency, the Michael Thompson Clemency Project delineates categories meriting clemency, including:

  • Senior prisoners having served over half their term.
  • People enduring chronic illnesses.
  • Marijuana-related conviction holders.
  • Victims of domestic violence.
  • Juveniles sentenced to life without parole.
  • Youths automatically prosecuted as adults.

Though recent years have seen a decrease in Michigan's incarcerated population, many believe this to be influenced largely by the COVID-19 pandemic. Clemencies are still a rarity, and parole grants in 2021 plummeted to a 30-year low. These statistics starkly contrast with evidence-backed recommendations for reform and the urgent need to address longstanding systemic disparities hurting Michigan communities.

Michigan's efforts in criminal justice reform, while commendable, often lack the immediacy required. While reforms are essential, their trickle-down effect can be excruciatingly slow, leaving many in prolonged limbo.

The power of clemency lies in its ability to rectify past oversights, offer a renewed shot at life, and mend fragmented communities and families. We fervently encourage Governor Whitmer to collaborate with the Michigan Parole Board, prioritizing a review of clemency applications and granting them, especially for the vital categories aforementioned.

As Michigan continues its journey with cannabis and evolving perspectives on justice, this plea for expanded clemency reflects a broader quest for equity, understanding, and community healing.

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