Compassionate Conservatism, My Ass


In his final, telling acts of clemency, announced yesterday, George W. Bush commuted the prison sentences of two Border Patrol agents who were convicted in 2005 of shooting a fleeing, unarmed marijuana smuggler in the buttocks and then lying about the incident to cover up the crime. Jose A. Compean and Ignacio Ramos will now be released after serving less than three years of their sentences (12 and 11 years, respectively). "Border Patrol and law enforcement have no stronger supporter than me," Bush proclaimed a couple of years ago, when he first took an interest in the case. The New York Times notes that the sentences Compean and Ramos received "were driven by a mandatory 10-year prison sentence for the use of a firearm in the assault, a condition that irked supporters who said the men were required to carry a gun in their border duties."

There's no shortage of prisoners who were screwed over by mandatory minimum sentences, many of whom, unlike Compean and Ramos, are nonviolent offenders whose only "crime" was supplying a politically incorrect intoxicant to willing buyers. Here, for instance, is a guy who got 55 years for selling a pound and a half of pot because he happened to carry a gun for self-protection. Families Against Mandatory Minimums can tell you about many more victims of the rigid, draconian penalties spawned by the war on drugs. Yet Bush has granted clemency to just a few drug offenders, and the Times notes that his overall number of pardons and commutations, an even 200, is "the fewest of any two-term president in modern times." Bush's annual average, 25, is a bit higher than the 19 per year racked up by his one-term father. With that one exception, his average is much lower than that of every other president since James Garfield, who was assassinated four months after his inauguration. 

Dave Weigel discussed Compean and Ramos' crimes in 2007, the same year I noted Bush's pathetic clemency record. Katherine Mangu-Ward compared Bush's record to those of his recent predecessors in the November 2007 issue of Reason. I noted a couple of his drug offender commutations here and here.