As other second-chance sentencing mechanisms are considered and developed, the reform of federal clemency remains important. As part of broader reforms, clemency can—if revived—serve functions that other pathways cannot. It offers a singular breadth and scope, limited only by the imagination and conscience of the president, allowing it to address categorical releases, pardons, and to reach those people left behind by the inevitable inter-judge disparities created by mechanisms like compassionate release. Clemency, properly reformed, would also allow a path to freedom that does not run through the DOJ, and humanizes the criminal justice system for a president who may not regularly engage with this crucial machine of social control. Finally, clemency is a constitutional duty of the president—and one which embodies the principle of mercy that most Americans embrace.

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