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December 7, 2011 (ProPublica)

Presidential Forgiveness Can Change a Life

For Serena Nunn to become a lawyer in her home state of Georgia, she needs the help of not one president but two.

In July 2000, President Bill Clinton ordered the release of the 31-year old, who, at 19, was arrested and charged with aiding and abetting the distribution of cocaine. Wives and girlfriends of drug dealers have little information to negotiate with prosecutors. Under mandatory minimum sentencing, Ms Nunn, who had no prior record, was sentenced to 15 years and eight months in federal prison.

Today, Nunn, 42, a 2006 graduate of Michigan Law School, assists lawyers but can’t practice law  because her conviction prevents admission to the Georgia State Bar. The only way to overcome the restriction is with a Presidential pardon, which she has applied for, but, according to ProPublica's analysis of pardons, that can take years. 

Issue Area(s): Sentencing Policy, Incarceration, Collateral Consequences