According to the Huffington PostNew York Governor Andrew Cuomo has revealed a plan to help inmates struggling with monetary difficulties. It can be challenging for inmates to find the funds to fight against court rulings. Many individuals who want to take their cases to a higher court or make a plea for a pardon are kept from pursuing their best interest due to financial constraints. New York aims to make it easier for convicted individuals to obtain the legal resources they need to petition the Governor for a pardon, the eradication of someone’s criminal record, or clemency, which often involves commuting an individual’s prison time. When an individual’s sentence is commuted, their time in prison is cut short. However, commuting does not entail erasing someone’s criminal record. A pardon retroactively absolves you of crime, but when someone’s sentence is commuted, it does not necessarily relieve them of criminal guilt.

Individuals seeking a pardon or a sentence commutation from the Governor frequently have difficulty funding their legal plea. That’s why Governor Cuomo joined together with legal organizations such as The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Foundation for Criminal Justice, and Families Against Mandatory Minimums. Together, the Governor and these groups are looking to make legal resources much more readily available for those that require assistance. His partnership is based upon a federal effort that encouraged legal groups to train criminal defense attorneys to identify potential clemency petitioners and assist them in applying. This partnership furthers goals set for New York by Governor Cuomo two years ago.

Governor Cuomo has made an efficient, just legal system a key part of his political platform. Starting in 2015, the Governor backed efforts to increase free or “pro bono” legal representation for inmates looking to petition for clemency. Since its inception, this initiative has found over 1,700 individuals to assist. His program encourages private lawyers to give their services to individuals who wanted to build a case for a pardon or for commuting their sentence. He himself has used his office to grant various forms of clemency to convicted individuals, pardoning 114 people and reducing the sentences of 10 others.

This new partnership, along with the continuation of Governor Cuomo’s program, will doubtlessly help many individuals access the resources they require. It’s unfair that so many are kept from using the law to its fullest extent due to financial restraints. Many individuals and organizations in New York agree that convicted and accused individuals should be able to obtain legal representation when they need it most. John S. Wallenstein, the president of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, says, “This partnership is a welcome expansion to the existing project, as it will bring more lawyers together with applicants who lack the resources to pay for representation.” He goes on to express, “With more training, mentoring, and electronic access to client materials, this partnership will help our members better represent reformed and rehabilitated applicants in the State’s process, and assist them in their efforts to apply for clemency.”

 

 

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