Jubilee Justice 2000:
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 office.
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
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 as kingpins.
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
"...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 families.
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 system.
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 in Chief.
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.