University of St. Thomas School of Law professor Mark Osler recently announced the opening of a unique initiative, a pro-bono, pop-up law office. The Clemency Resource Center (CRC) will be open for only one year and will exclusively prepare petitions for federal clemency.
Osler calls the new operation a “factory of justice” and has the goal of addressing at least 300 clemency cases. The pop-up is housed and co-founded by the Center on the Administration of Criminal Law at New York University School of Law.
Osler says that the United States’ federal prison population grew from 25,000 inmates in 1980 to over 200,000 today. The majority of prisoners are non-violent drug offenders. In an interview with Fox 9 TV News, Osler said, “I was a federal prosecutor. I was one of the people who put people into prison for long terms. I believe in punishment. I believe in incapacitation of people who are dangerous. But we didn't solve the narcotics problem by sweeping up low wage labor.”
The CRC is opening when the issue of over-incarceration is a priority for President Obama. The White House announced 46 commutations this week. So far, Obama has commuted 89 drug offenses and plans to address even more. That is a record compared to other recent presidents. Lyndon Johnson holds the high with 226 commutations. George H.W. Bush granted the lowest number of commutations at 3.
Two of the seven lawyers recruited to staff the CRC are UST Law alumni, Eric Hylok and Arthur Waldon from the class of 2015. Both participated in Osler’s commutations clinic at UST Law.