August 6, 2021

Home. Many of us take it for granted, particularly during the worldwide pandemic as ‘working from home,’ morphed into ‘living at work.’ However, as two of our Clemency Project clients, Joseph Jones and Dominic Holder, are released from prison after being granted clemency, they know better than the rest how important home really is.

For each of them, incarceration has meant being far away from home. After being held in Kansas prisons, each can begin the interstate journey back to their families; Jones to Texas and Holder to Indiana.

This joyous homecoming comes at the end of a long process. As COVID rose to a national concern, the ACLU of Kansas legal team began work trying to protect people in crowded prisons. We named this effort the Clemency Project. Our team submitted 108 applications for clemency and created a toolkit that allowed hundreds more to apply themselves. Jones and Holder were among those 108 clients.

As news of our clients’ release broke, the ACLU’s Legal Director Sharon Brett said she could feel the infectious joy from each of them through the zoom screen.

“They wanted to sort of reach through the camera and hug all of us and hug the governor herself,” Brett said then. “It’s a really special thing. It’s giving people the gift of time back with their loved ones.”

While thinking about them, we also remember Christopher McIntyre, our other client who received early prison release as he battled late-stage cancer in multiple parts of his body.

Chris won early release in April via a process for people suffering from medical conditions so severe they no longer pose public safety threats. He died at home, surrounded by family, a measure of mercy extended to him and to his family who feared he’d die alone in his cell.

Joseph and Dominic head home today because state government, at least in part, affirmed our assertion that clemency is not about what you did, but who you are today. It is not about where you’ve been, but what you are going next. It is not about yesterday, but about tomorrow.

Joseph’s mother said of him, “You’re not a felon. You fell off.”

Today demonstrates how clemency transforms lives.

That reminder comes as Joseph and Dominic are once again able to hug their moms, go for walks and enjoy family dinner, now that they’re finally home.