President Obama granted clemency to 231 more federal inmates on Monday, the highest number any president has ever reached in a single day. Of the 231 inmates, 153 had their sentences commuted, while 78 were fully pardoned.
In April 2014, approximately five years into Obama’s presidency, the Department of Justice unveiled the clemency initiative. His focus on granting clemency to such a high number of inmates fulfills his administration’s promise to concern themselves with criminal justice reform, particularly regarding those affected by the Drug War. The Drug War has received serious criticism from many groups, including constitutional activists, as well as Republicans, Democrats and those in between.
Several weeks prior, family members of current inmates petitioned President Obama to grant clemency at a quicker pace.
“To me it feel like a last battle cry,” wrote 39-year-old Jason Hernandez, who was granted clemency in 2013. “President Obama, if he wants to leave his legacy as far as clemency, he has fewer than 60, 70 days to do that, because everyone feels that the door will close as soon as he leaves office.” The criminal justice system gave Hernandez a life sentence, compared to his supplier’s 12 years, since he converted the drugs in his possession to crack cocaine.
These families are worried that president-elect Donald Trump will do very little on the topic of criminal justice reform, a fear that might have been validated following the announcement that Trump had chosen controversial figure Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to serve in his administration as U.S. Attorney General. Sessions’ outdated views on criminal justice as well as the Drug War represent everything constitutional criminal justice reform advocates have fought against.
In August, Obama commuted the sentences of 214 inmates. It was the largest number of commutations in a single day since the year 1990. In November, he commuted the sentences of 79 inmates, boosting his total number of commutations to 1,023.
He has officially forgiven more sentences than the past 11 presidents combined.
(H/T The Hill)