Obama Has Now Commuted More Sentences Than The Last Half-Dozen Presidents Combined
As President Obama moves through his “To Do” list during his final year in office in hopes of securing his legacy – the Iran nuclear arms deal, traveling to Cuba, making moves to close the prisoner detention facility at Guantanamo Bay – he crossed off another goal by commuting the sentences of more convicted felons in a single day than any previous president did in his entire term.
All 61 offenders were serving sentences for drug-related charges, including both possession and distribution of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines, with more than one-third serving life sentences.
The president’s action brings his total of commuted sentences to 248, close to double the 139 commuted by the previous six presidents combined.
“We’re all imperfect. We all make mistakes,” Obama said.
The move is part of Obama’s effort to reform sentencing laws, especially for drug-related charges, yet and far from the goal set when Attorney General Eric Holder announced in 2011 that “10,000 prisoners were potentially going to be released.”
A statement from the White House read, “Clemency of individual cases alone cannot fix decades of overly punitive sentencing policies. Only broader criminal justice reform can truly bring justice to the many thousands of people behind bars serving unduly harsh and outdated sentences.”
In the meantime, the President has promised more releases, according to the statement.
“Throughout the remainder of his time in office, the President is committed to continuing to issue more grants of clemency as well as to strengthening rehabilitation programs.”
Two previous Democrat presidents commuted the sentences of 90 offenders during their terms (Clinton, 61 and Carter, 29), while four previous Republican presidents released 49; 13 by President Reagan and only 3 by President George H.W. Bush.
The president’s power to grant clemency comes from Article II of the Constitution and may be by way of a pardon, which erases a conviction, or by commutation, which leaves the conviction in place, but reduces the sentence, usually to “time served.”