Jacob Sullum on Obama's Discovery of His Clemency Powers
As an Illinois legislator, a U.S. senator, and a presidential candidate, Barack Obama repeatedly criticized our criminal justice system as excessively punitive. But after Obama was elected to the White House in 2008, says Jacob Sullum, the man who worried about nonviolent offenders serving outrageously long prison terms seemed to disappear, replaced by a president with one of the weakest clemency records in U.S. history. Once he had the unilateral power to free people who do not belong in prison, Obama showed almost no interest in exercising it, shortening just one sentence during his first term. But judging from clemency criteria unveiled by the Justice Department last week, Sullum says, Obama plans to make up for lost time.