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December 4, 2010

Some reactions to President Obama's first set of pardons

This article in the Politico, which reports on the first set of pardons issued by President Obama (basics here) includes some quotes from various pardon experts about what Obama has and still has not now done with his historic clemency powers.  Here are excerpt:

[C]lemency advocates say the pardons, while politically cautious, are an important first step. "I'm very happy that he's gotten the ball rolling. I hope this means he will start pardoning on a regular and generous basis," said Margaret Love, who ran the Justice Department's pardon office under presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton....

Molly Gill of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, said her organization is “thrilled” that the president has begun to use his power to impart justice. “He took a long time to do it, but the people who received these pardons, I’m sure, are thrilled," said Gill, whose group works to eliminate disproportionately harsh minimum sentences for crimes like drug possession.

However, Gill expressed some regret that Obama didn’t act boldly. “These were easy cases. These were not tough calls," she said. "I think that maybe reflects still a lot of political concerns involved with politicians' fear of looking soft on crime."...

Four of the pardons were for people found guilty of cocaine-related offenses — a crime that has become the focus of a campaign for equity in sentencing for those convicted of dealing crack cocaine as well as those found to have sold or possessed the drug’s powdered form. However, Obama did not grant any commutations to inmates serving lengthy sentences as a result of tough sentencing guidelines or mandatory minimum drug sentences.

"The lack of commutations, for one thing is disappointing," Gill said. "There are still some problems with the Office of the Pardon Attorney handling these cases. I find it hard to believe that with thousands of people getting mandatory minimum sentences on drug crimes every year the Office of the Pardon Attorney cannot find a handful of deserving people to send home early."

Back in August, Obama signed a bill that reduced the penalties for some crack cocaine offenses, but the reductions had no effect on those already serving time. Some opponents of tough drug laws have urged Obama to issue commutations to prisoners who are serving more time than they would if convicted today, but the White House has, so far, given a chilly response to that suggestion.

“Pardons don’t mean much anymore, except no doubt to the recipients. The crimes are long passed. Time served is long gone,” said George Lardner, author of a forthcoming book on executive clemency. “This does nothing to affirm the importance of the pardon power. It just gets him under the wire so he can claim that George W. Bush took more time than he did.”

In October, POLITICO reported that Obama began denying clemency requests for the first time, denying 605 commutation petitions and 71 pardon applications. Last month, Obama denied another 552 commutations and 60 pardon requests, a White House spokesman said.

One observer noted that the details on the time served by those Obama pardoned for drug offenses and the time served shows how the justice system has changed in recent decades. One pardon recipient got probation for conspiring to distribute cocaine. Another got 30 days in jail. Such offenses often bring a sentence of 10 years or more in the federal system these days.

December 4, 2010 at 02:14 PM | Permalink

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Comments

I find it beyond hilarious that Obama, who obviously graded on a moral and talent curve when he selected his affirmative action candidate for Attorney General, and who can spout cute little slogans like "just-us" (what, are we going to hear "his-story" next?) is so tight-fisted with clemency/pardons. What ever happened to the "fierce moral urgency of now?" and all that other BS? Oh, I am sorry, you didn't think that this actually meant this dorm room Marxism crapola, did you?

Posted by: federalist | Dec 5, 2010 10:13:06 AM

Hey guys, remember this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEVvJSwiMLY

Ha ha ha ha ha. Naivete on stilts. Just how ridiculous is this video now?

Posted by: federalist | Dec 5, 2010 10:48:17 AM

"Oh, I am sorry, you didn't think that this actually meant this dorm room Marxism crapola, did you?"

Probably should be rewritten as "Oh, I am sorry, you didn't think that he actually meant this dorm room Marxism crapola, did you?"

Posted by: federalist | Dec 5, 2010 1:18:16 PM

"Hope and change."

Yikes. It makes you wince just to say the words.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 5, 2010 3:07:07 PM

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