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August 30, 2016

Continuing his notable clemency momentum, Prez Obama grants 111 more commutations

Chart_082916_commutationsAs reported in this new NPR piece, "President Obama shortened the prison sentences of 111 inmates Tuesday, including 35 people who had expected to spend the rest of their lives in federal custody, authorities told NPR." Here is more about today's exciting clemency news and its context:

Word of the new batch of clemency grants came as the second-in-command at the Justice Department told NPR that lawyers there have worked through an enormous backlog of drug cases and, despite doubts from prisoner advocates, they will be able to consider each of the thousands of applications from drug criminals before Obama leaves office in 2017.

"At our current pace, we are confident that we will be able to review and make a recommendation to the president on every single drug petition we currently have," Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates said.

The early releases apply to mostly non-violent drug offenders who would have received lighter punishments if they committed the same crimes today. The new commutations mean this White House has granted 673 commutations, more than the past 10 presidents combined. Tuesday's grants follow 214 more earlier this month.

In February the new pardon attorney, Robert Zauzmer, asserted that stacks of petitions would not be left on his table next year. But that had long been in doubt. After the Justice Department and the White House launched the initiative for drug offenders about two years ago, white collar criminals, sex predators and violent criminals sent their applications, too. Those petitions flooded volunteer lawyers and officials in the Office of Pardon Attorney. The pardon attorney, Deborah Leff, ultimately resigned after raising alarms about insufficient resources to do the job, which she said could "change the lives of a great many deserving people."

Lawyers working for prisoners said there's still a lot more work for the administration to do. Mark Osler, who led an effort by three dozen law professors and advocates to get the White House to pick up the pace, estimated that 1,500 drug prisoners should win commutations based on the administration's criteria. By his math, that means the president has not yet moved on more than half of the inmates who should win shorter sentences....

In an interview, White House Counsel Neil Eggleston said the president gives each request a special, individualized review, keeping in mind their crimes, their record in prison and whether they merit a second chance, to walk their grandchildren to school or hug their families. Eggleston said the president "doesn't think of it as a number he wants to reach."

"The president's view is that he would like to grant as many worthy petitions as get to his desk and I think he's going to tell me to put worthy petitions on his desk until the last day, and that's what I intend to do," Eggleston said.

Eggleston has this new posting at the White House blog with the chart reprinted here under the heading "President Obama Grants 111 Additional Commutations, the Most Commutations Granted in a Single Month."  Here are excerpts:

Earlier this month, President Obama granted commutation to 214 federal inmates, the most commutations granted in a single day by any President in this nation’s history. With today’s additional 111 grants, the President has commuted the sentences of 325 people in the month of August alone, which is the greatest number of commutations ever granted by a president in a single month. The 325 commutations the President has granted in just one month is more than any president granted in a single year for nearly a century.

Today’s 111 commutation grants underscore the President’s commitment to using his clemency authority to provide a second chance to deserving individuals. To date, President Obama has granted 673 commutations: more commutations than the previous ten presidents combined. More than one-third of the President’s commutation recipients, or 232 individuals, were serving life sentences....

While I expect that the President will continue to grant commutations through the end of this administration, the individualized nature of this relief highlights the need for bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation, including reforms that address excessive mandatory minimum sentences. Only the passage of legislation can achieve the broader reforms needed to ensure our federal sentencing system operates more fairly and effectively in the service of public safety.

August 30, 2016 at 03:17 PM | Permalink

Comments

Great news from a great President. I will miss him.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Aug 31, 2016 12:54:15 AM

while federal prosecutors and federal judges continue their happy habit unabated. As long as it's a white collar crime, they're oblivious to reason or moderation.

Posted by: Brenda | Aug 31, 2016 6:55:46 AM

"Today’s 111 commutation grants underscore the President’s commitment to using his clemency authority to provide a second chance to deserving individuals. To date, President Obama has granted 673 commutations: more commutations than the previous ten presidents combined. More than one-third of the President’s commutation recipients, or 232 individuals, were serving life sentences...."

I must admit President Obama has enormous courage and
integrity. I never thought I would say it, but I too will miss him.

Posted by: Dave from Texas | Aug 31, 2016 8:30:22 AM

Hail to the Chief!

Posted by: Emily | Aug 31, 2016 8:31:01 AM

The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown:
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.

Posted by: anon5 | Aug 31, 2016 8:33:29 AM

"Great news from a great President. I will miss him."

His signature achievement--releasing criminals and forcing people to buy health insurance with massive deductibles.

Not so great.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 31, 2016 9:58:56 AM

Federalist writes: "His signature achievement--releasing criminals and forcing people to buy health insurance with massive deductibles." Federalist sounds like a Trump shill here. I thought he was more intelligent. How disappointing.

Posted by: anon5 | Aug 31, 2016 10:43:12 AM

Anon5--for someone who whines about ad hominem argument, I couldn't pick a better example. I don't have a problem with ad hominem, of course--what I do laugh at is stupidity.

My comment poked fun at the idea that because this guy releases a few hundred criminals he's a great president (perspective?) and then tweaked everyone about Obamacare which, no matter what part of the political spectrum you are from, has to be bothersome--do we really think that the "young healthies" should subsidize the older (and likely richer) people and have to pay exorbitant deductibles so, for the vast majority of them, they really aren't getting anything?

Posted by: federalist | Aug 31, 2016 12:07:54 PM

federalist--for someone who whines about pivoting argument, I couldn't pick a better example. I don't have a problem with pivots, of course--what I do laugh at is your eagerness here to turn a clemency conversation into a debate over Obamacare. ;-)

Posted by: Doug B. | Aug 31, 2016 12:51:35 PM

I am not "pivoting"--to pivot is to move away from a previously stated position. What I am doing is responding to the Obama is great nonsense.

You owe me an apology for the alt-right BS.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 31, 2016 8:32:41 PM

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