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Carol Jacobsen Advocates for Clemency in the Detroit Free Press

Carol Jacobsen
Carol Jacosen 

Stamps Professor Carol Jacobsen was featured in the Detroit Free Press this week. Using her creative practice as a filmmaker and photographer in tandem with political and legal work through her non-profit Michigan Women’s Justice & Clemency Project, Jacobsen has worked for decades as a fierce advocate of clemency for women in the criminal justice system. As Governer Snyder enters the final weeks of his term, and five bids for clemency are before him, Jacobsen’s voice offers a critical perspective to the conversation. 

Learn more about commutations and pardons in the state of Michigan in this FreePress article and more about Jacobsen’s work in her forthcoming book, For Dear Life: Women’s Decriminalization and Human Rights in Focus (University of Michigan Press, 2019). 

Now each case is unique, but the history of violence and abuse is there,” Jacobsen said. These women who are in for murder are not criminals and do not have criminal histories. These are women who were acting in violent situations in survival mode.”

Many of the women were sentenced decades ago, at a time when there was limited knowledge of the effects of domestic violence, when there wasn’t a large network of support systems for battered women like shelters and toll-free crisis hotlines. It also was a time when police were less willing to intervene in domestic and sexual abuse cases, Jacobsen said.

Laws have also changed. Jacobsen doubts the women sentenced decades ago to life in prison without parole would get such hefty sentences if they were convicted today. 
A lot of the women that we’ve represented over the years never had abuse presented at their trials,” she said. There are so many that deserve a chance. We don’t need to keep people in prison for 30 years. … We are just way too punitive.

The governor is the sole person who has this unique power to redress an injustice, and it is critical that that power be employed for the sake of mercy but also for the sake of justice,” Jacobsen said.

Carol Jacobsen Advocates for Clemency | Detroit Free Press