Dear Mr. President. . .

Dear President Barack Obama:

You have the unique and absolute power as President of the United States to commute the sentence of any federal prisoner. I urge you to use your power to send Hamedah Hasan home to join her three daughters and two grandchildren. She is serving her 17th year of a 27-year prison sentence for a first time, non-violent crack cocaine offense. Were Hamedah convicted of the exact same crime involving the powder form of the drug, she would be home by now.

“The disparity between sentencing crack and powder-based cocaine is wrong and should be completely eliminated.” These were your words in your “Blueprint for Change.” Even if Congress succeeds in its active legislative attempts to reform the sentencing laws that created this shameful and discriminatory disparity, Hamedah Hasan’s prison term will remain. None of the legislation contemplated on Capitol Hill will apply retroactively to those serving excessively harsh crack cocaine sentences. You – and you alone – can reunite Hamedah with her family by commuting her sentence and saving her from another decade in prison.

Hamedah Hasan knitting in prison. Photo: Handout

Were you to commute Hamedah’s sentence, you would join a long line of presidents who have robustly exercised their executive clemency power. Thomas Jefferson employed the pardon power to eliminate the sentences of those convicted under the shameful Alien and Sedition Acts. President John F. Kennedy granted over 100 commutations in less than three years in office. President Lyndon Johnson commuted 226 sentences. The time has come for you too, President Obama, to exercise your power of forgiveness on behalf of an exceptionally worthy person with much to contribute to the community to which she will return.

Even Hamedah’s sentencing judge, the Honorable Richard G. Kopf of the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska, has asked the President to commute Hamedah’s sentence. In a letter supporting her commutation petition, he says:

…I can say, without equivocation, that Ms. Hasan is deserving of the President’s mercy. I have never supported such a request in the past, and I doubt that I will support another one in the future. That said, in this unique case, justice truly cries out for relief.

Only you, President Obama, through the power of commutation, can stop Hamedah’s harsh sentence from running its long course. Doing so would not only help Hamedah and her family, it would provide much needed force to your administration’s statements opposing the crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity, as well as revive the executive clemency process to its noble and necessary function.

Respectfully Submitted,

Stephanie Williams, J.D.


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