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Legal Clinics Join Community Coalition for Clemency to Advocate for the Incarcerated

On Monday, Nov. 21, the School of Law Legal Clinics and the Community Coalition for Clemency were joined by local clergy to call on Governor Jay Nixon to commute the sentences of 15 incarcerated Missouri women. 

James Dowd

Judge James Dowd speaks during a roundtable discussion/press conference with SLU's Chris Collins, S.J., and law students behind him.

Most of the women are victims of domestic abuse and some have spent more than 30 years in prison. Seven of the women are age 60 or older with four of the inmates over the age of 65 and several are serving life terms. The oldest is 74 years old.

“With eight weeks left in office, Gov. Nixon, now is the time,” said Emily Bell, third-year law student at the press conference.

All faiths share common ground on the principles of mercy and forgiveness."

Christopher Collins, S.J., assistant to the president for mission and identity

Rabbi Susan Talve of the Central Reform Congregation, the Rev. Karen Anderson of Ward Chapel AME Church, and Monsignor Jack Schuler of Catholic Charities joined with Chris Collins, S.J., assistant to the president for mission and identity at Saint Louis University, to add their voices to a coalition of attorneys and other advocates representing prisoners seeking clemency.

“We’re proud to come forward as representatives of a variety of faiths to observe that all faiths share common ground on the principles of mercy and forgiveness,” Collins said. “Pope Francis has called on government leaders to consider clemency for prisoners, not just those who have already served their sentences.” 

“One of the prayers recited in the Jewish morning blessings asks for the freeing of the captives,” Talve said. “It calls on us to balance justice with mercy, to leave room for forgiveness and to show compassion to those who long for the freedom that we believe they are due. Each of these women has the ability and the right re-enter our community and be a blessing.”

Anderson echoed her sentiments saying, “These women deserve a chance to live free.”

The press conference was followed by a panel presentation that included Angel McDonald, daughter of Judy Henderson, one of the women requesting clemency. 

During the panel, law professor John Ammann, J.D., asked students to call Nixon’s office to request these women be set free. He suggested the date of Dec. 15 for the calls.

The power of clemency is granted to the governor in the Missouri Constitution.  Its purpose is to allow for the show of mercy and to correct injustices in the criminal justice system. Several recent Missouri governors of both political parties have granted numerous clemencies to offenders, including Matt Blunt, John Ashcroft, Mel Carnahan and Bob Holden. Former Governor Holden is a member of the Coalition seeking clemency.