PRESIDENTIAL CLEMENCY FOR 214 FEDERAL INMATES SENTENCED UNDER HARSH WAR-ON-DRUGS-ERA LAWS
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 214 federal prisoners—including 10 Californians—serving time behind bars under outdated drug sentencing laws. Sixty-seven of the recipients were serving life sentences. President Obama granted the largest number of commutations during a single day since 1900.
Obama’s latest act of clemency, brings his total number of commutations to 562.
Wednesday’s commutations appear to signal a welcome increase in momentum for the White House’s Clemency Initiative as Obama nears the end of his final year as president. The move is a significant one for a president who, in past years, has faced criticism from activists for granting too few people clemency.
“In just the first eight months of 2016, the President has more than doubled the number of commutations granted in all of 2015,” said Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates. “But we are not done yet, and we expect that many more men and women will be given a second chance through the Clemency Initiative.”
It is worth noting, however, that the president has granted far fewer pardons (which wipe a person’s criminal record and restore their rights) than many of his predecessors, despite receiving more than 2,000 petitions. Obama has granted 70 pardons during his two terms, while George W. Bush granted 189 pardons, Bill Clinton granted 396, Ronald Reagan granted 393, Jimmy Carter granted 534, Lyndon B. Johnson granted 960, and Harry S. Truman granted 1,913.
In the above video, Norman Brown—a man who served 20 years of a life sentence before Obama commuted his sentence—offers advice to the men and women who will now reenter their communities after years in prison. “Take your time, be grateful…and enjoy starting your life all over again,” Brown says.