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CLEMENCY RUNNING OUT OF STEAM?
If you want a sentence commutation, be a drug offender. If you want a pardon, be a turkey.
President Barack Obama yesterday commuted the prison sentences of 79 more federal prisoners. The White House wasted no time trumpeting that this latest act brought Obama’s total commutations granted during his eight years of presidency to 1,023.
Most of those receiving clemency had firearms charges along with drug charges. The list included some life sentences being cut to 20 and 30 years, with most inmates being released in the next two years.
The White House said Tuesday that Obama has been commuting sentences for months, believing many U.S. inmates are serving inappropriately long terms for nonviolent crimes, typically drug offenses. The commutations are part of what the White House calls Obama’s “Second Chance” initiative (not to be confused with the Second Chance Act).
The White House says the President is primed to grant more in the remaining weeks of his administration.
“These commutations are great but there are thousands of more people being warehoused in federal prison for drug offenses. They probably won’t get any relief under Donald Trump, which is why President Obama should commute all their sentences before he leaves office,” said Bill Piper, Senior Director of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance.
In its statement, the White House futilely called on Congress to take up criminal justice reform:
We as a society have to make sure that people who do take responsibility for their mistakes are able to earn a second chance to contribute to our communities and our country. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do.
Now it’s up to good minds on both sides of the aisle to come together to restore fairness in our criminal justice system, use our tax dollars more effectively, and give second chances to those who have earned them.
Two years ago White House predicted Obama would grant about 2,000 commutations, meaning that – with only 58 days left in his term – the President is only halfway to his goal. A few weeks ago, we predicted that Obama might be rolling out weekly commutation lists, but in November, he granted clemency only twice, to 181 people. Of course, there was an election and the President’s swan-song European tour that got in the way, but if this rate remains, we’re only looking at 200-400 more commutations before January 20th.
The President’s pardon list has been as short as the clemency list has been long. Obama has granted fewer pardons than any president in modern history, 17 in his last eight years. By comparison, he has pardoned ten turkeys during that time, the last two of his term to be saved from the block this afternoon. In other words, a barnyard bird has nearly as good a chance at an Obama pardon as a federal felon.
UPI, Obama commutes prison terms of 79 more people to reach total of 1,023 (Nov. 22, 2016)