YouTube Video: White Collar Week Tuesday Speaker Series: REMISSION NOW “Fairness in Restitution” Town Hall, on Zoom, Nov. 14, 2023

From Fellow Traveler Tanya Pierce: “In 2022, The Ladies of Hope Ministries launched the #REMISSIONNOW campaign (https://thelohm.org/remissionnow/).

We held a lunch and learning session with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the U.S. Pardon Attorney to raise awareness about the impact of restitution, share how restitution for many is a “life sentence,” and advocate for commutation of restitution. After our session with the NACDL, the NACDL contacted attorney David B. Smith, Esq. (a recent White Collar Week speaker) based on our recommendations.

David Smith and Jim Felman drafted the Fairness in Restitution Act. The NACDL Board approved the FIR Act. Two weeks ago, we received the final version (now available for review). Our supporters are currently the NACDL, The Federal Defenders, and Progressive Prison Ministries.

I am the legislative committee chairwoman of the campaign and have worked extensively with David Smith and the NACDL. Elise Roper is the Remission Now chairwoman. Cassandra Cean-Owens and Roxanne Jackson are invaluable members of the legislative committee.

Nov. 24th Town Hall lineup:

Moderator- Tanya Pierce, MBA

Panelists – Cassandra Cean-Owens, JD, LPN
Roxanne Jackson, JD
Elise Dixon-Roper, JD

We are all members of the Remission Now Campaign, and we are serving a “life sentence” due to oppressive and unfair restitution requirements.”

Bios:

Tanya R. Pierce, MBA: is a co-Founder of the RemissionNow campaign and was appointed by Dr. Topeka K. Sam, Founder of The Ladies of Hope Ministries (LOHM), to lead the strategic and legislative planning. Tanya is the Founder of Life Unbolted, which supports people impacted by the federal carceral system. She created the Young Adult Initiative (YAI), a peer-led training, mentoring, coaching, and accountability cohort-style training for federally impacted individuals aged 18-24. The program collaborates with the U.S. District Court – Eastern District of New York (EDNY) Special Options Services (SOS) Program. In 2022, she received the Department of Justice (DOJ) Token for participating as a credible messenger in the U.S. Attorney Office EDNY Inaugural Reentry Simulations and Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP) contracted Residential Reentry Center (RRC) Forum. She was a contributing Stakeholder of the Coordination to Reduce Barriers to Reentry: Lessons Learned from COVID-19 and Beyond: Report to Congress from the Reentry Coordination Council: April 2022.

Tanya has over 20 years of experience in real estate development. She holds a certificate in paralegal studies from CUNY Queens College, a certificate in JTC: Python Coding 3.9 from Columbia Business School. She is a NY Certified Peer Specialist. Tanya is a vocal federal criminal justice reformist.

Roxane Jackson: Roxanne is a dynamic and accomplished professional with a vibrant, engaging personality. She received her formative education in the Chicago Public Schools. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from National Louis University in Evanston, Illinois, and obtained her law degree from The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, Illinois. Ms. Jackson has amassed over (30) years of senior management and human resources experience with numerous not-for-profits and Fortune 500 companies, such as FOX, L’Oreal USA, Mars Inc., and Omar Medical Supplies.

Her engaging demeanor gives her the ability to captivate, teach, and entertain audiences with her infectious enthusiasm, unique delivery, and thought-provoking content.
Roxanne is currently the Midwest Regional Director of a national organization. Roxanne is building coalitions in the Midwest to address legislative changes needed to provide true second chances to those impacted by the criminal justice system.

Elise Dixon-Roper: a co-founder of the RemissionNow campaign, was a managing partner in a small minority law firm in Chicago when she was indicted in 2012 for mail fraud. Prior to her sentencing, Elise had practiced law for 20 years. In 2015, Elise was sentenced to 15 months, serving 9 months in Lexington, KY. In 2021, Elise reached out to Dr. Topeka K. Sam, Founder of the Ladies of Hope Ministries (LOHM) to see how she could help her and several of her friends with restitution. The Fairness in Restitution (FIR Act) is a result of this group’s perseverance in trying to help the thousands of people who are stuck in a life sentence due to restitution. Elise is currently an Operations Manager for a consulting/insurance firm in Chicago. Her main goal now is to obtain remission and to help pass the FIR Act.

Cassandra Cean-Owens: a co-founder of the RemissionNow Campaign and former litigation, transactional, and managing attorney was sentenced to 87 months in federal prison, resulting in her disbarment by the New York State Bar. Her release to home detention in May 2020 amidst the COVID pandemic ignited her passion for criminal justice reform. Cassandra, now under federal supervision, is deeply committed to contributing positively to society. During her time at Danbury Federal Prison Camp, she instructed legal research and writing classes, founded the prison’s law library, and crafted the curriculum for the United States Department of Labor Legal Secretary Apprenticeship Program. Cassandra’s multifaceted life includes serving as a licensed practical nurse on weekends, a Sunday School Bible Teacher for adults, and a former chaplain for the New York City Police Department. She co-designed Columbia Law School’s Paralegal Pathway Program and serves as its program Ambassador, reflecting her unwavering commitment to making a meaningful difference in the world. Cassandra resides in New York with her husband Isaih R. Owens, Esq., and nine-year-old daughter.

To reach Remission Now: Restitutionreform@gmail.com

White Collar Week Oct.. ’23 Newsletter: https://conta.cc/48DQ4DL

Sponsored by Progressive Prison Ministries, Inc./White Collar Support Group: https://prisonist.org

Sponsored by GrantLaw, PLLC: http://grantlaw.com

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Fairness in Restitution (FIR) Act of 2023


Background
Restitution is intended to be a compensatory, not punitive, component of a defendant’s sentence after a
conviction. Too often, however, the restitution imposed is unfairly onerous, disproportionate to the harm
actually caused by the person, and unsupported by evidence. Even after a person has served their prison
sentence, many restitution orders make it difficult for a person to start their life again, to care for their family
and dependents, and even to make the required restitution. Many people who have served short sentences for
crimes are burdened years and even decades later by restitution requirements. Restitution can become a “life
sentence.”


Summary
The FIR Act would improve federal restitution law by:
Ensuring fairness, proportionality, and accuracy in the amount of restitution owed.

  • Require that the Government show actual loss sustained by a victim as a direct and proximate result of
    the defendant’s actions.
  • Eliminate joint and several liability and ensure that defendants are only responsible for compensating
    harms they themselves caused.
  • Hold an evidentiary hearing for proving or disproving the amounts included in a restitution order.
    Preventing restitution obligations from becoming overly onerous or lengthy.
  • Change the statutory period of liability to pay a fine from 20 years to 10 years and preventing
    extensions, which current law does not allow for but were sometimes permitted by courts.
  • Allow courts to consider the economic circumstances of a defendant so that defendants are not burdened
    with unfair and unrealistic burdens.
  • Prevent the seizing or garnishing of wages, benefits, or certain other amounts if it would leave the
    defendant assets that would qualify them for the appointment of counsel under federal guidelines.
  • Allow defendants to petition for a change in their restitution order if their economic circumstances
    change.
  • Allow defendants to keep small amounts of money made outside of wages and benefits, such as small
    gifts or inheritances.
    Helping victims recover while also helping defendants avoid burdensome debts.
  • Require that any amounts collected by the Government first go to satisfaction of a restitution order, in
    cases where both restitution and forfeiture are required.
  • Allow settlements of outstanding restitution obligations which would guarantee an amount of restitution
    for victims while removing a burden from the defendant.
  • Exempt any reduction in restitution amount owed from being counted as income for income tax
    purposes.