October 27, 2016
Prez Obama grants sentence commutations to 98 more federal offenders
As reported in this new USA Today article, "President Obama granted 98 more commutations to federal inmates Thursday, bringing the total for this year to 688 — the most commutations ever granted by a president in a single year." Here is more:
In all, he's now shortened the sentences of 872 inmates during his presidency, more than any president since Woodrow Wilson. The actions were part of Obama's extraordinary effort to use his constitutional power to rectify what he sees as unduly harsh sentences imposed during the "War on Drugs." Through a clemency initiative announced in 2014, he's effectively re-sentenced hundreds of non-violent drug dealers to the sentences they would have received under today's more lenient sentencing guidelines....
But while Obama's commutation grants get most of the attention, he's also been quietly denying a record number of commutations at the same time — a function of the unprecedented number of applications submitted through the clemency initiative. On Oct. 6, for example, the White House announced that Obama granted 102 commutations. It wasn't until a week later that the Justice Department updated its clemency statistics to reveal that he had denied 2,917 commutation petitions on Sept. 30.
Some advocates for inmates say there's not enough transparency about why some get clemency while others wait. "We want answers for the families who are still waiting for their clemency," said Jessica Jackson Sloan, national director of the pro-clemency group Cut 50. "There needs to be more communication about why people are being denied."
As of Oct. 7, Obama has granted just 5.5% of commutation applications — still more than many of his predecessors. President George W. Bush granted just 0.1% of commutation applications that reached his desk, but was more generous with full pardons at this point in his presidency.
"While there has been much attention paid to the number of commutations issued by the president, at the core, we must remember that there are personal stories behind these numbers," White House Counsel Neil Eggleston wrote on the White House web site. "These are individuals -- many of whom made mistakes at a young age — who have diligently worked to rehabilitate themselves while incarcerated." Eggleston said 42 of the inmates who had received commutations were serving life sentences.
Sixty-three of the inmates granted presidential mercy on Thursday will still have two years or more to serve on their sentences, part of a recent White House strategy of issuing deferred "term" commutations instead of the more common time-served commutations. The longest of those: David Neighbors, a 34-year-old man from Evansville, Ind., whose 2008 life sentence for cocaine trafficking Obama commuted to 30 years. That means he has up to 22 more years left to serve.
And 42 of the commutations granted Thursday have strings attached. As part of an increasing practice of attaching conditions to his commutations, Obama required inmates with a documented history of drug use to enroll in a residential drug treatment program before being released.
The full statement from White House Counsel Neil Eggleston is available at this link, which is also the source for the graphic reprinted above.
October 27, 2016 at 09:59 PM | Permalink
"These are individuals -- many of whom made mistakes at a young age — who have diligently worked to rehabilitate themselves while incarcerated."
Does anyone believe this nonsense? All the individuals getting clemency have diligently worked to rehab themselves? No. Well, DOug, have you lost respect for WH counsel?
Posted by: federalist | Oct 28, 2016 10:04:58 AM
I have never had much respect for this WH counsel, but I would be eager for you to point me to persons who got clemency whom you know have not "diligently worked to rehabilitate themselves while incarcerated." I am not saying you are wrong, but rather I am eager to see you citing to examples of this statement being demonstrably false.
Posted by: Doug B. | Oct 28, 2016 3:17:47 PM
Doug, the statement on its face defies credulity. Some have--I am sure, but all (or even all but a very very few?)
Given the misleading nature of the communications from the WH on this issue, I don't see how we're supposed to take on their face incredible statements as gospel.
Posted by: federalist | Oct 28, 2016 3:47:15 PM
I am not suggesting you take this as gospel, partisan federalist, I just am eager for any evidence you can reference so I can feel as certain as you that it is obviously wrong. As a partisan, you assume it is wrong. As an open-minded person, I seek evidence.
Posted by: Doug B. | Oct 28, 2016 7:27:43 PM
"Through a clemency initiative announced in 2014, he's effectively re-sentenced hundreds of non-violent drug dealers to the sentences they would have received under today's more lenient sentencing guidelines...."
Sounds reasonable to me. Hail to the Chief!
Posted by: Michael R. Levin | Oct 28, 2016 10:15:23 PM
Obama has "effectively re-sentenced hundreds of non-violent drug dealers to the sentences they would have received under today's more lenient sentencing guidelines...." This is eminently fair. Obama's action displays a reasonable and restrained exercise of the clemency power. Nothing to quarrel with here.
Posted by: Emily | Oct 29, 2016 9:37:41 AM
I find it interesting that a large % of the commutations have been granted to offenders who received life without parole for nonviolent drug conspiracy's. A sentence of life without parole raises the bar for re sentencing and other sentencing relief.
Obama has also denied thousands of clemency petitions. Perhaps more than any other president. Hum, I think I'll look at that.
Posted by: beth | Oct 29, 2016 12:42:56 PM