By John Kruzel ’14
BROOKLAND — CUA Law unveiled plans today to launch one of the nation’s first law school clinics devoted to helping inmates as they seek to cut short their lengthy prison sentences and transition out of a U.S. criminal justice system that boasts the highest incarceration rate in the world.
The announcement came from former Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich (R), who has worked to establish clemency clinics at Washington-area law schools. While the former governor did not reveal details of the CUA Law program during a symposium hosted by the CUA Law Review today, Ehrlich has previously discussed his vision for the clinic.
“It would be a multi-pronged approach, including advocacy, public education and training,” Ehrlich, who works in the Washington office of the Atlanta-based law firm King & Spalding, told ProPublica last March.
The proposal by the former governor, who granted clemency to more than 200 convicts while in office from 2003 to 2007, is based in part on the country’s only law school clinic for commutations, which sends students around the country to interview federal prisoners, examine their criminal cases and file applications on their behalf, according to ProPublica.
Since 2002, the United States has had the highest incarceration rate in the world, according to the Population Reference Bureau. Although prison populations are increasing in some parts of the world, the natural rate of incarceration for countries comparable to the United States tends to stay around 100 prisoners per 100,000 population. The U.S. rate is 500 prisoners per 100,000 residents.
The pardons program would help disadvantaged applicants and give law school students experience dealing with people seeking a second chance, fostering “a sense of fairness and justice,” Ehrlich told ProPublica, a public interest news outlet. Ehrlich also envisioned the program hosting training seminars for governors and their staff members, along with an annual symposium on pardons.
“I can’t think of a better place — a more appropriate place — than The Catholic University of America to have this program and to have these conversations,” Margaret Colgate Love, the U.S. Pardon Attorney from 1990 to 1997, told students and professors at today’s symposium.