A Campaign for Justice
Jubilee Justice 2000 is a
campaign to educate the public about the need for sentencing
reform, and ultimately to persuade the President to commute the
sentences of thousands of Federal prisoners before he leaves
The length of sentences served
by prisoners has grown astronomically. Federal parole was abolished
by Congress in 1984. By the end of the year 2000 there will be
150,000 people imprisoned in the federal prison system alone,
and 60% of these prisoners are serving drug sentences.
Drug sentencing is harsh.The
old saying, "If you do the crime, you do the time,"
was based on the belief that laws were written with care and
deliberation. It was also based on a legal system with built-in
checks and balances. This is no longer the case and has not been
the case since mandatory sentencing, passed by Congress in 1986,
moved judicial sentencing discretion to federal prosecutors.
These laws were changed without
advice or consultation from any agency with expertise in these
legal matters. There was no input from the Drug Enforcement Agency;
the Bureau of Prisons was not consulted, nor were judges or the
U.S. Sentencing Commission.
The result is clear; we are
now immersed in a murky quagmire of so-called justice that imprisons
the minor offender - a young man unloading the boat, the woman
tending the door of the stash house. These commonly are the people
serving 20-year federal prison sentences. Laws that promised
to take drug "kingpins" out of business have filled
our prisons with minor drug participants instead. In 1998 only
43 of the 20,614 people sent to federal prison were sentenced
People who break the law deserve
to be punished, but what do we say of justice that wears a "countenance
too sanguinary and cruel"? What of laws that cause more
harm than any good? Drug sentences are so harsh that federal
judges across the nation have called them "manifestly unjust."
Once the punishment has been sufficient, further punishment is
The year 2000 is a Jubilee
year. People of faith around the world are celebrating. Pilgrims
are flocking to Rome, to Jerusalem and other holy sites.
"And you shall hallow
the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the
land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee to you . .
." Leviticus 25:10" . . . because the Lord has anointed
me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind
up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and
release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord's
favor . . ." Isaiah 61: 1-2
Our campaign for justice begins
in the spirit of Jubilee, in the interest of equity and in the
importance of the election year as we debate the attributes of
what constitutes a viable presidential candidate.
"The President shall
be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy . . . and he shall
have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against
the United States . . ." - U.S. Constitution, Article II,
Section 2, first sentence.
Jubilee Justice 2000 is not
about guilt versus innocence. Jubilee Justice 2000 is about justice.
Federal prisoners who have served at least 5 years for nonviolent
drug law violations should be released. Before President Clinton
leaves office we'll work to persuade him to commute the sentences
of all non-violent federal prisoners and let them return to their
The campaign will educate
the American people about a broken federal sentencing system
and the building of a national movement to reform sentencing.
It includes a national appeal to President Clinton - in the spirit
of the Jubilee year - to commute the unjust sentences of thousands
of people presently languishing behind bars in our federal prison
We appeal to clergy and religious
leaders of all faiths to preach and write about this issue. We
ask you to join with us to encourage our President to do what
is within his power and moral obligation to do.
In addition, Jubilee Justice
2000 will use the election campaign and its focus on the qualities
and qualifications of a President. Our Constitution designed
the office of the Presidency for a person with the capacity to
show mercy, who will be a last champion of justice, as well as
a person with the resolution and courage to serve as Commander
Before William Jefferson Clinton
leaves office on January 20, 2001 he should establish, as part
of his legacy, demonstrable acts that show he stood for justice
by freeing thousands of federal prisoners sentenced unjustly.
Download a PDF copy
(Adobe Acrobat) of the Petititon for Justice in the Spirit
of Jubilee here.