Decentralizing Clemency: Decentralizing the Commutation Power to Invigorate Sentence Reduction
Drug Enforcement and Policy Center, No. 19, May 2020
17 Pages Posted: 4 May 2020
Date Written: May 4, 2020
Reforming sentencing and reducing prison overcrowding requires a focus on the future to ensure just punishments and the past to re-evaluate harsh punishments from the ‘tough on crime’ era. This paper focuses on ending those past wrongs. Executive clemency is sometimes discussed as a method for addressing harsh punishments, but there are only so many governors and Presidents. This paper proposes amending the Ohio Constitution to grant the elected county prosecutors a commutation power subject to veto by the governor. This would decentralize clemency and create a new, potentially system-reshaping tool to address harsh sentences and empower reform-minded prosecutors. The paper additionally discusses other methods to expand clemency and favors adopting the novel constitutional amendment in addition to other reforms for maximum impact.
Keywords: Decarceration, Clemency powers, Clemency decentralization, Decentralizing commutation powers, Sentence reduction, Reforming sentencing, prosecutorial clemency powers
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