Writing a Clemency Support Letter: Important Do’s and Don’ts

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Writing Effecting Clemency Support Letters for Marijuana Lifers

Taking the time to write a clemency support letter is one of the most important things you can do to help them, even though it won’t cost you much time or money. Why? Because each support letter is logged and recorded, and this makes a difference when it comes time for the pardon attorney to decide which petitions to support. Also, the more a given prisoner’s name comes up in front of the pardon attorney and their staff, the more they are likely to notice them. Keep in mind the pardon attorney’s office sifts through tens of thousands of clemency petitions, if you want to keep your prisoner’s chances high, it’s a good idea to send something in at least every month or so.  Here are some tips to help you write an effective support letter that will help increase a prisoner’s chance at release!

Clemency Support Letter Do’s

  • DO: Include your name and address
  • DO: Use spell check and proof read your letter.
  • DO: Address the letter to the United States Pardon Attorney (Robert Zauzmer as of this writing), the President of the United States, or better yet, both! It is OK to send a letter to one and cc the other.
  • DO: Establish your relationship to the prisoner, whether you are a family member, friend, or just a citizen concerned about injustice.
  • DO: Talk about how the prisoner’s incarceration effects you personally (if in fact it does) as well as how it effects society as a whole.
  • DO: Talk about how the prisoner’s incarceration effects the inmate’s family and any hardships it causes them.
  • DO: Talk about how long incarcerations for nonviolent crimes puts a financial burden on society.
  • DO: Talk about how the inmate has bettered himself in prison or about any accomplishments or classes he has taken, or examples of a good prison record (if you know about these things, if you don’t, don’t worry about it).
  • DO: Talk about how the prisoner’s sentence would be less if he or she were sentenced today (if in fact you know it would).
  • DO: Talk about any medical conditions or other special needs that should be taken into consideration about the prisoner (if you know of them).
  • DO: Use a letter format, single-spaced:
    Date
    Name and address of person you are addressing (the pardon attorney and/or President in federal cases, the governor in state cases)
    Body of letter

Clemency Support Letter Don’ts

As difficult as it may be to not get angry and political, resist the urge if you really want to help the prisoner. These don’ts are perhaps even more important then the do’s:

  • DON’T: Claim the prisoner is innocent. When writing clemency support letters it is important to remember who the audience is, and this audience is comprised of legal wonks. As far as they are concerned this case has been tried and defendant is guilty. That is no longer up for debate in any way, shape or form. Now is the time to ask for mercy, compassion, and leniency.
  • DON’T: Re-try the case – – now is not the time to talk about the details of the case or what you may feel was wrong about it or how it was handled. None of that is important at this stage.
  • DON’T: Get on a soapbox about how you feel the prisoner’s sentence was unjust or how the drug war is unjust, or how you feel nobody should be in jail for a plant. You can point out the trend towards legalization, the number of states that have done so for medical or recreational purposes, and the changing tide of public opinion, but do not start debating the wisdom, or lack thereof, of the drug war.
  • DON’T: Send letters directly to the President or Pardon Attorney, but rather coordinate with a designated family member or advocate, who will then gather support letters together to be sent in a single package with other important information about the inmate. This allows a strategic campaign that keeps that prisoner’s name in front of the people who make the decisions that can effect their future. For the purposes of the prisoners on this site, we are coordinating with the prisoners’ family members (and in some cases, MLP director Cheri Sicard is the person handling the campaign entirely) so all support letters can be sent here, and we will insure they get sent to the proper people to be included in the proper packets:
    Cheri Sicard/Marijuana Lifer Project
    2727 Anaheim St #4914
    Long Beach, CA 90804
    attn: Clemency support

Marijuana Lifer Project Prisoners in Need of Clemency Support Letters

Thank You!

Thank you for taking the time to help a marijuana prisoner.  Writing a clemency support letter is one of the most important and effective things you can do!  For instance, Billy Dekle used to be part of the list above, and we collected hundreds of clemency support letters for him.  In December 2015 he was granted clemency by President Obama.

If you have any questions at any time or need any help at all, feel free to contact us, We are always here to help!

Cheri Sicard
Executive Director, Marijuana Lifer Project

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