President Grants Commutations to 153 Federal Prisoners, Including Paul Free and Steven Speal

December 19, 2016 5:15 pm

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WASHINGTON — Today, President Obama announced 153 grants of commutation. Of today’s 153 grants, 82 were in cases supported by Clemency Project 2014. That brings the total number of commutations granted by President Obama to date to 1,176, of which 605 were supported by Clemency Project 2014.

“With fewer than five weeks left in his term, President Obama has once again commuted the unnecessarily extreme sentences of scores of federal prisoners,” said Cynthia W. Roseberry, project manager for Clemency Project 2014.

Among the prisoners who received commutations was Paul Free, who has been serving life without parole for a nonviolent marijuana offense since 1995. The American Civil Liberties Union featured Free in the report “A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses.” In his 2013 interview for the report, Free talked about his mother, had died the year before, “She cried many times when I spoke with her, saying, ‘I wish I could see you once before I die.’”

President Obama also granted a commutation to Steven Speal. Speal is serving life without parole for a nonviolent drug offense and possession of a firearm. In his interview for the ACLU’s report, he said, “I will never give up the right to be free again when I get out. I understand life is too short. I have made choices to help as many people as I can in here or out there.”

“After years of extraordinary work by thousands of volunteer lawyers from across the nation, Clemency Project 2014 could not be more proud to have submitted more than 2,500 worthy petitions for clemency to the administration,” said Rosenberry. “This holiday season I look at the extraordinary achievements of Clemency Project 2014, the amazing contributions of thousands of volunteer lawyers as well as the numerous participating organizations, the generosity of the project’s supporters, and the life- and community-changing actions of the president, and I am humbled. There is still one month remaining, and many pending petitions awaiting action, for the president to continue and accelerate this important work. I trust he will do so.”

Clemency Project 2014, an unprecedented, wholly independent effort by the nation’s bar, has recruited and trained nearly 4,000 volunteer lawyers from diverse practice backgrounds and completed screening of over 35,500 of the more than 36,000 federal prisoners who have requested volunteer assistance. The project’s painstaking review of these cases revealed that the overwhelming majority of those requests were by applicants who did not meet the criteria put forward by the Department of Justice in April 2014. To date, Clemency Project 2014 has submitted more than 2,500 petitions to the Office of the Pardon Attorney. Please direct media inquiries to

For “A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses,” visit:

For more information about Clemency Project 2014, visit:

For more information about the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, visit:

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