On Monday, Obama became the first president in history to break the record for granting 231 inmates clemency in a single day….and counting.
The Washington Post reports that President Obama “commuted the prison sentences of 153 nonviolent drug offenders and pardoned 78 others who were sentenced under harsh and outdated laws and would have received lighter sentences if convicted today.” This announcement was made while the president and his family vacationed in Hawaii.
Pardons, in effect, ‘forgive’ prisoners for their crimes and restore their civil rights, whereas commutations shorten their sentences.
In a statement issued by the White House, Monday’s grants account for nearly double the number he has pardoned iover the past 8 years.
During his presidency, Obama has pardoned a total of 148 people and granted commutations to 1,176 federal inmates under the clemency initiative that he and former attorney general Eric Holder Jr. launched two years ago, reports Jordan Fabian at The Hill. Of those 1,176 inmates, 395 were serving life sentences.
Obama intends to issue even more commutations before January 20th. This has been an increasing trend during his final months in office.
With growing fears that President-elect Donald Trump plans to ‘scale back or eliminate the use of clemency for large groups of federal inmates,’ as he talked about on his campaign trail, some believe criminal reform groups are putting added pressure on Obama to grant as many clemencies as possible before Trump takes over.
Obama has long held the belief that “long sentences for nonviolent drug offenders have had a disproportionate affect on communities of color,'” according to The Hill. They further report that his defense has been:
“The clemency initiative identifies federal prisoners deserving of an early release. Prisoners must be low-level, nonviolent offenders who have served at least a decade of their sentence, demonstrated good behavior and have no significant criminal history or a history of violence.”
White House counsel member, Neil Eggleston, made this statement regarding Obama’s announcement:
“Today’s acts of clemency — and the mercy he has shown his 1,324 clemency recipients — exemplify his belief that America is a nation of second chances”
As expected, Obama’s actions have sparked mixed reactions among bipartisan groups. With critics saying he has ‘overstepped his authority and put dangerous criminals back into their communities,’ while his supporters say ‘he could be even more generous with his commutation grants.’
You can read equally mixed emotions over Obama’s decision on Twitter:
— Starcia Ague (@StarciaAgue) December 7, 2016
— Rick Layon Law (@LayonLaw) November 16, 2016
— HLS Criminal Justice (@HLS_CJPP) December 5, 2016
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