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April 24, 2024

Prez Biden issues 11 pardons and five commutations to persons "convicted of non-violent drug offenses"

As stated in this press release from the White House, "President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. is using his authority under the Constitution to advance equal justice under law by granting clemency to 16 deserving individuals who were convicted of non-violent drug offenses." The release provide the names and various details about all the clemency recipients, though more background information is given concerning the 11 pardon recipients, and the basic sentence information is provided for the five persons who recieived prison sentence commutations. In this document, titled "Statement from President Joe Biden on Clemency Actions," comes this explanation:

America is a Nation founded on the promise of second chances. During Second Chance Month, we reaffirm our commitment to rehabilitation and reentry for people returning to their communities post incarceration.  We also recommit to building a criminal justice system that lives up to those ideals and ensures that everyone receives equal justice under law. That is why today I am announcing steps I am taking to make this promise a reality.

I am using my clemency power to pardon 11 individuals and commute the sentences of 5 individuals who were convicted of non-violent drug offenses. Many of these individuals received disproportionately longer sentences than they would have under current law, policy, and practice. The pardon recipients have demonstrated their commitment to improving their lives and positively transforming their communities. The commutation recipients have shown that they are deserving of forgiveness and the chance at building a brighter future for themselves beyond prison walls.

Like my other clemency actions, these pardons and commutations reflect my overarching commitment to addressing racial disparities and improving public safety. While today’s announcement marks important and continued progress, my Administration will continue to review clemency petitions and deliver reforms in a manner that advances equal justice, supports rehabilitation and reentry, and provides meaningful second chances.

The Department of Justice also has this list of the clemencies. It looks like most, but not quite all, of these clemency recipients were convicted and sentenced for crack offenses, with some of the pardon recipient crimes going back in the 1990s.  Most of the commutations are for folks given decades of imprisonment in the 2010s.

April 24, 2024 at 01:37 PM | Permalink


Under no circumstances should race be a consideration in either granting benefits or imposing burdens. Biden's statement is troubling because it implies that race was a factor in these decisions.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 24, 2024 7:19:41 PM

Racial disparities with regards to sentencing. You love to cherry pick one sentence out of the whole statement. You should review the 16 persons whose sentences were committed or pardoned. Not all of them were black.

Posted by: Anon | Apr 24, 2024 11:07:19 PM

By Otis's "logic," you could never correct racial disparities because that would be considering race. Be smarter man.

Posted by: whatever | Apr 25, 2024 11:56:31 AM

Really? 11? After all the promises of fixing over sentenced people with his pen, this is it? He lost my vote the first year he did nothing...I guess I will have to vote for the green party because the options suck..

Posted by: Randy Cowan | Apr 25, 2024 2:59:39 PM

whatever --

I care about racial disparities to the same extent I care about (much greater) gender disparities, or age disparities, namely, zero. If demographic group X commits more crime than the general population, it SHOULD be in prison more than the general population.

As for smarter, hot shot, might I inquire from which law school you graduated?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 25, 2024 10:49:24 PM

Mr. Otis, the United States Sentencing Commission itself refutes your assertion. According to its 2023 report, racial disparities do indeed exist in sentencing. “Specifically, Black males received sentences 13.4 percent longer, and Hispanic males received sentences 11.2 percent longer, than White males. … Black males were 23.4 percent less likely, and Hispanic males were 26.6 percent less likely, to receive a probationary sentence compared to White males.” Page 4, Demographic Differences in Federal Sentencing, United States Sentencing Commission (November 2023), found at chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/research-and-publications/research-publications/2023/20231114_Demographic-Differences.pdf

Posted by: anon12 | Apr 26, 2024 10:44:02 AM

anon 12 --

Quote the part of the USSC report that says the disparities exist BECAUSE of racial prejudice. Is the huge disparity in the number of males vs. the number of females in prison because of societal prejudice against men?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 26, 2024 11:08:01 AM

Mr. Otis:

I do believe a fair bit of that disparity is due to societal favor towards women, rather than disfavor towards men.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Apr 26, 2024 3:59:29 PM

Soronel Haetir --

Women's rights groups would probably disagree with you. But for whatever one might make of that question, overwhelmingly the reason that men are massively "overrepresented" in the prison population is that men commit massively more serious crime than women.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 26, 2024 6:54:04 PM

Mr. Otis, you ignore the statement from the Sentencing Commission that "Black males received sentences 13.4 percent longer, and Hispanic males received sentences 11.2 percent longer, than White males. … "

Surely, this should concern you.

Posted by: anon12 | Apr 27, 2024 10:28:00 AM

anon 12 --

And if the the USSC said that men receive sentences 20 percent longer than women, should that concern me?

Well actually, it would concern me, because men are much more than 20 more violent than women, and their violence tends to be more damaging/lethal. So the disparity should be BIGGER.

What you're missing is that I'm concerned with behavior regardless of identity and you're concerned with identity regardless of behavior.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 27, 2024 10:43:05 AM

To the extent that these are crack commutations, it is worth keeping in mind that 1 gram of crack counted the same as 100 grams of cocaine powder. I think the concerns that have been raised about that disparity have considerable merit, and the disparity has been removed from the law.

So, while I don't think there is any problem with black-versus-white sentencing for (say) murder, I do think there was a problem for cocaine sentences.

Posted by: William Jockusch | Apr 27, 2024 10:18:03 PM

Race is the only thing people here are concerned about. If it was reversed, you all would be silent. How do I know? There is no rending of garments over the ice and meth disparity.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Apr 27, 2024 10:52:22 PM

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