Pardon My What?!? Absolution, Racial Bias, and Justice Reform with Tammy Allison, Esq.
This interview was first published by Dr. Pamela Gurley, D.M. via Medium. You can view the original article here.
The last four years have been nothing short of facing the harsh reality of how far we (black people) have not come when it comes to racial and social injustice. And while many of us may not have been at the forefront of it, Attorney Tammy Allison certainly has. Unfortunately (and fortunately), she saw the ugly from the inside while working as a senior attorney for the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) and on the outside (being a Black woman in America). And trust me, I only used the term “fortunately” because it is what fueled her passion for making a difference when it comes to social and judicial reform. And even more so, it strengthened the decision to create something that has not been done: be the FIRST black-owned expert clemency law firm, The Pardon Attorney.
From the moment I read about Tammy Allison, Esq., I could not wait to talk with her about the grounds she is breaking and the future contributions to come. You can feel her passion and dedication in every word she says.
Hold on to your seats as you read because it gets deep!
Dr. G: Hi, Tammy. It is pleasure to meet you after reading so much about you. Your story is both inspiring and encouraging, which makes me want to jump in and talk about your history-making transition. After 10 years working in the government, deciding to resign and serve an untapped component of federal law could not have been an easy decision to make (especially as the first black female-owned firm to tackle this). Was there any nervousness or reservation about walking away?
Tammy Allison, Esq: Absolutely! I initially wanted to launch in April, but then the pandemic and other life issues prevented the launch. I struggled with leaving the comfort of a biweekly paycheck at a prestigious employer. However, I knew that it was necessary for me to occupy this space at this time because it’s bigger than me. When I wrote my letter of resignation on October 19, 2020, I did not know that I would on that day. It just felt — necessary. Before I could send the email, my phone started ringing, and it has not stopped. Random connections and opportunities confirmed that this was the time. My last day was October 30, 2020, and I launched on November 1, 2020. I did not realize the history that I would be making initially. I just knew that no one was talking about clemency in a way to educate and offer a solution of ownership for a strong petition. Being the third attorney to ever own an expert federal executive clemency law firm, having worked at the Office of the Pardon Attorney, and to be the first black-owned is not something that I thought about when deciding to launch the firm. It was more so the need for an attorney with my experience to share my knowledge and address a solution to a problem that impacts incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals.
Dr. G: You know you have to speak in layman terms to me, so you know the first thing I had to ask is what federal executive clemency is and how does it impact minorities?
Tammy Allison, Esq.: In the simplest form, it’s forgiveness that restores rights (like the right to bear arms, vote, etc.). It’s the last stage of the criminal justice system. It’s where an individual can say they’ve accepted responsibility for a crime, they can demonstrate how they’ve atoned for their offense conduct, and hopefully, receive the extraordinary grant of clemency from the President. There are two types: commutations and pardons. Commutations are applied for by currently incarcerated individuals, and pardons are applied for by formerly incarcerated individuals.
It’s important for minorities and non-minorities alike because, for a commutation, they could be released from prison early. For a pardon, they could get the rights that they lost back, with the most sought after being the right to legally possess a firearm.
Dr. G: This makes me wonder why there are not more conversation surrounding this topic (especially given President Trump has granted clemency 44 times in four years, and Obama granted executive pardons or clemency 1,715 in his eight years in office). With the overcrowding in jails (especially with the majority being minority,) this should be a conversation beyond prison reform. In an article you wrote, you shared while working at the USDOJ, there was never any discussion with any of the components surrounding how to best approach racial injustice. How do you propose those conversations get started, and why are they important to have?
Tammy Allison, Esq.: Unfortunately, the headlines have had non-stop stories about various incidents of racial injustice. It usually involves law enforcement and an unarmed black man or woman. For me, working in an environment of law enforcement, it was so ironic for there not to be any type of conversation addressing the racial injustices that were plaguing the very system in which I was a part of. Offering a realistic solution to the very obvious problem was how I began to speak up to initiate discussions surrounding racial injustice. It’s important for the conversations to be had, especially at the workplace, because it assists in forcing everyone to face the fact that there is a problem. Ignoring it does not make the problem of racial injustice go away.
Dr. G: So, what is the answer to start these difficult conversations?
Allison, Esq.: The first step is having a conversation about the problem. The second step is coming up with a solution to address it. I believe that there is a way for every single individual to be impactful in creating a solution if individuals from various backgrounds and beliefs have real and honest conversations about the reality of the problem without feeling judged and having their concerns validated during the conversation.
I actually offer to consult and training on how to have these types of conversations at the workplace through my business, Own Your Passion®.
Dr. G: This seems easier said than done. Criminal justice reform and racial bias are often words thrown around lightly to be so heavy. In your expert opinion, is either a possibility to have (especially given the divided state of our country right now)?
Tammy Allison, Esq.: Whew! This is deep. I absolutely believe that both are possible to have, and even at the same time. When we discuss criminal justice reform, I believe that racial bias is inherently a part of that phrase.
I approach it as the policies and procedure as it relates to where I am familiar. The DOJ is in need of reform (addressing the inherently biased policies and procedures of the criminal system) in order to have justice that is equitably applied to all. It’s very much possible.
There are plenty of experts who discuss this at every phase of the criminal justice system. I am an expert in federal executive clemency, having spent half of my 10 years as a senior attorney with the Office of the Pardon Attorney. You don’t hear people speaking about criminal justice reform as it pertains to clemency because most people don’t even understand what clemency is or that it is the last phase of the criminal justice system.
We know that reform is needed. We are all fully aware of the problem, but where I differ is that I offer a viable solution to the problem. Ownership is the key. That is the solution until bigger changes can be made to address the policies and procedures at DOJ’s the Office of the Pardon Attorney. Business ownership, skill ownership, education ownership, etc. We already know that individuals with a federal conviction struggle to obtain employment, housing, maintain good credit, etc. Add being a member of a certain demographic, socio-economic status, citizenship status, etc., and it makes the process towards thriving in a society that much harder. This is why I created The Pardon Attorney™, a law firm that not only focuses on assisting individuals with federal convictions to present a strong clemency petition but also assists in setting up their businesses, protecting their business’ intellectual property through trademarks and copyrights, and having the ability to enforce and defend their IP through federal litigation.
Reform is offering a solution to a problem through actionable items. Thepardonattorney.com hopes to address the need for reform as it pertains to clemency in a way that benefits the clients but also sheds light on this often times a forgotten aspect of the criminal justice system.
Dr. G: In every interview, I like to ask what you are unapologetic about at this moment. What are you unapologetic about and why?
Tammy Allison, Esq,: I’m unapologetic about who TF I am. Yes, the vulgarity is necessary, lol. People need to see and know that attorneys get down with profanity, silliness, goofiness, balancing parenthood, families, imposter syndrome, and societal pressures, all while killing it in the legal profession and looking good doing it. I’m the best at what I do, and no one can tell me otherwise. People praise entertainers and athletes with this winning mindset but question professionals who demand some respect for their names. Not me. I separated from federal service on October 30, 2020, launched The Pardon Attorney™ on November 1, 2020, and came out the gate swinging while hollering that “I’m the greatest alive to ever do this; check my credentials!” My clients will receive the best services when they book their consultations and retain me to handle their legal needs.
And that ladies and gentlemen is how you pass along knowledge!