Obama Doubles His Commutation Total in One Day

The affected prisoners include a marijuana grower sentenced to life.



Today President Obama issued more commutations than he did in the first 75 months of his administration, suggesting that his new openness to clemency petitions may be having a real impact. The 22 prisoners whose sentences Obama shortened today are all serving time for drug offenses, most commonly involving crack cocaine. The crack offenders received sentences ranging from 20 years to life but will instead end up serving seven to 22 years. The list also includes four cocaine powder dealers serving terms ranging from 20 years to life, three methamphetamine dealers with the same sentencing range, and a Kentucky marijuana grower, Francis Darrell Hayden, who was sentenced to life in 2002 but will now be released in July.

"Had they been sentenced under current laws and policies," presidential adviser Neil Eggleston says, "many of these individuals would have already served their time and paid their debt to society. "Because many were convicted under an outdated sentencing regime, they served years—in some cases more than a decade—longer than individuals convicted today of the same crime." That is especially true of crack sentences, which Congress shortened in 2010 without making the changes retroactive.


"The President has now granted 43 commutations total," Eggleston writes. "To put President Obama's actions in context, President George W. Bush commuted 11 sentences in his eight years in office." That's a pretty favorable comparison for Obama, since Bush granted fewer commutations than any other modern president except for his father, who granted three over four years. But Eggleston promises that "the Administration will continue to work to review thoroughly all petitions for clemency," so there is still hope that Obama's mercy will surpass Richard Nixon's.

"We are thrilled that President Obama is making good on his promise to use the powers granted him by the Constitution to provide relief for federal prisoners serving excessively long mandatory minimum sentences," says Julie Stewart, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. "We hope and expect to see more commutations granted through the end of his term."

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  1. Lame token gestures. Everyone in prison today on drug charges should be released immediately, and compensated for damages.

    These are not crimes. The only crime that was committed is when the state charged the people over this bullshit.

    1. Bingo. Yeah, its a good thing, but its such a pathetically small drop in a large body of water.

    2. Let’s not get greedy. Personal liberty is something doled out in doses the public good can tolerate.

      1. Personal liberty is a poison for which obeisance to the State is the only antidote, citizen.

        1. What about more cowbell? It cures everything.

          1. Did you make your request through the appropriate channels? I certainly hope that cowbell has been registered with the Noise Ordinance Bureau, pursuant to the Percussive Instruments Act.

            1. Cowbells are symbols of the rancho-normative patriarchy and only serve to show your farmer privilege

              1. This is Christopher Walken giving you the stink eye.

                1. That was Christopher Walken, this is Christopher Dancin


    3. I agree its a drop in the ocean, but its not a lame gesture for the men and women who get their lives back. For them this lame gesture is everything.

      1. I am happy for them.

        I just don’t credit Obama for much basic humanity. There are thousands of people suffering for every token he helped. And it would take nothing other than the stroke of a pen to help them.

  2. What has he been waiting for?

    1. I’m guessing he just read about it in the paper?

      1. “How long has this War on Drugs been going on?”

  3. “We hope and expect to see more commutations granted through the end of his term.”

    Hope and expect? We’ll see.

  4. And note the reflexive anti-Bush dig. Totally unnecessary, small-minded and petty. These people are pathetic.

  5. Good on him, and of course it’s great to adjust sentences which are higher than they would be today for the same crimes.

    But that can be seen as somewhat deferential to Congress – “I’m adjusting these past sentences to what Congress allows under current legislation.”

    Come on, be bolder still, shorten some of the excessive sentences authorized by Congress itself!

    Unless you think those laws are basically OK.

    1. What is it with the Presidents claiming extraordinarily broad powers with only the slimmest Constitutional justification, yet when it comes to a specifically-granted power, the power of executive clemency, they’re so timid and deferential to Congress?

      1. The popularity of a given policy over another?

        He administered executive amnesty under the theory that its popularity would make the wisdom of it self-evident. I think he’s mistaken on that count, but that’s his cross to bear. On the other hand, his base, for all their talk about reforming drug laws and equalizing sentencing, can’t muster a single shit about nonviolent offenders rotting in jail. It doesn’t sell seats like amnesty does. So he doesn’t bother about it beyond a token gesture. He won’t correct one of the most glaring examples of our broken justice system because it’s not going to advance him politically.

  6. Obama is so emblematic of his age.

    We should praise him for not being even more awful.

    Why isn’t there already an “Obama Prize”?

      1. “At least you didn’t make things much worse.”

  7. Hey, this is better than nothing. There’s not really anything to gripe about. We know neither he nor just about anyone else who becomes president is going to mass-pardon non-violent drug offenders. So this isn’t bad at all, considering the context.

    1. Yeah, I give him props for this. He has no real reason to do this other than it’s the right thing to do. Every once in a while he surprises me.

    2. President Rand Paul might.

      He might even do it ahead of his midterm campaign.

      Assuming President Paul can carry the red states, why wouldn’t he want to gain some clout in blue states?

      Somebody wants to call Paul a racist?

      What kind of racist gives x thousand blacks and y thousand Hispanics a get out of jail free card?

      1. You underestimate the leftist capability for perceiving hostility when someone not of their ilk does something good.

        Principals, not principles

      2. Rand Paul is a racist and has sent thousands of violent criminals from Federal prisons straight to Black and Hispanics neighborhoods. The Police Unions of every major Metropolitan area in conjunction with the Democratic Congress are calling for his immediate impeachment to answer for his heinous crimes!

    3. It’s a fair point.

      I can still bitch about the self-appointed party of compassion utterly failing to see anything effectual done about the least compassionate aspect of our modern culture.

      1. Hell,those people still support the laws that led to Eric Garner’s murder. But reality means shit to a prog as long as your intentions are pure.

        1. Not quite. Your intentions don’t have to be pure at all. You just have to say they are.

  8. Those sentences are unreal. Not that even one day is just but man. We’re such a compassionate country.

    1. Life in prison for being a crack offender. That makes sense.

      1. What frustrates me is that the drug warriors will be especially unsympathetic about dealers, citing the violence of their trade. But we have laws on the books for violent crime. If they’re in for that, then no, they shouldn’t be pardoned. Or, since the pardon power can take things into account that wouldn’t work in a courtroom, even if there’s a reasonable suspicion that they were violent you could pass on pardoning them. Maybe. But how many dealers does that leave as being convicted merely because of their trade in a substance than shouldn’t be illegal at all?

        To say nothing of the nonviolent users, who shouldn’t be in prison at all.

        1. Well if you want to get really technical the lawmakers who support prohibition are ultimately the ones who are responsible for the black market violence predictably caused by their policies so they should be the ones doing the hard time.

          1. Sure, I agree with that, but I also believe in personal responsibility. So lock of the violent and the criminal politicians.

            1. Here’s the problem with “only imprison the violent.” Prosecutors cut deals with those accused of violent felonies, who are also accused of drug felonies. So, somebody who may have slid on an assault charge is actually in prison on a drug trafficking charge. In My Perfect World, they would at most have been convicted of their violent crime, and selling the drugs wouldn’t be a crime at all, but if it weren’t they would have had recourse to settling disputes peacefully. You can’t sue your dealer for selling you fake or adulterated drugs, and, were a dealer stupid enough to give a junkie credit, he can’t sue for a bad debt. If either side of the drug transaction had recourse to law, most of those violent interactions wouldn’t occur. I never get into shootouts at my local liquor store.

              So, commuting or pardoning a whole mess of “drug offenders” will get you the “soft on crime tag.” O may not care about that anymore, or less as he approaches his exit date, but his political allies might. That’s one reason why Prexies save the controversial ones for the transition period after their successor is elected.

              Kevin R

      2. They were saved from a life of addiction. /moral crusaders pat themselves on back

  9. We are approaching an era in which, crime being significantly reduced since a couple decades ago, mindless tough-on-crime policies are no longer political winners, and with enough activism a more empathetic and sane criminal justice system can begin to take the place of the Nixon-instigated hellholes currently present in every county in the country. People can spend years in jail without being convicted of anything (essentially making poverty a crime). Mindless prohibitionist laws regarding drugs and alcohol still fill up prisons and cost us money. I’m wary of the pardon power and its monarchical nature, but it hasn’t done too much harm. Better would be legislatures seeing our brutal system for what it is and legislating in the interest of the people instead of for-profit prisons, for-profit bond issuers, and other such gems of capitalism.

    I don’t get the sense that libertarians are all that enamored with for-profit criminal justice, but if you just can’t help but reflexively favor privatization, it may be helpful to note that a private prison has none of the characteristics of a real capitalist enterprise, as the people involved don’t have any consumer choice, or any choices at all.

    1. Keep this Tony.

      Though, I have to disagree with your description of the pardon. I posit that pardoning is a necessary element of the checks and balances between the legislature and the executive. After all, Congress could just pass the “I Don’t Like Tony Act” over the veto of the President and lock you up. A Presidential pardon prevents nonsense like that.

      1. I call it monarchical because it is essentially the one absolute power the president has–since criminal justice will probably always be biased against mercy, it can do much good, but it can in theory be quite abused, as we all heard about at the end of the Clinton administration, not to mention that little episode with Ford. As a fan of Hamilton I must agree that, as I argue, there is “necessary severity” in all systems of punishment, making pardon power necessary, and I think further study is needed for his second interesting defense, that single men are less psychologically prone to corrupting pardon power than a committee might.

        1. I agree with Tony that the pardon power has been problematic in reason years. The people deservedly set free are an absolute drop in the bucket. In return for society giving these few dozen men and women their lives back, we pay with things like the Ford pardon of Nixon, whcih has effecticely put presidents on notice they can never be held accountable for even the most blatant lawlessness. Now we get guys lile Obama and Bush, who overtly engage in the sort of behavior Nixon was forced out of office over.

    2. Tony, you do realize that the prisoners are not the *customers* in a private prison system, right?

      1. Sure, but consider what that means they are, and if it sounds any better.

        1. Taxpayers?

          1. slaves. the prisoners are slaves.

    3. Are you really going to ignore that government sector unions and THEIR constituencies, prison guards and the police, profit FAR MORE from punitive drug policy than does the private prison industry? Or are you just going to take what was an excellent point and leave the stench of your statist bias all over it?

      1. dude, private prisons are prisons. CCE lobbies just as hard as the Unions do, and they are just as fucked.

        1. additionally, its common practice for these companies to ensure a 90% bed fill ratio with the state as part of their contract. This produces a huge incentive to keep the prisons full, as emptying them produces no taxpqyer savings. I could go on for a while about whats wrong with the PPI but the long and short of it is those who support free minds and free markets should be very wary of those who line their pockets by imprisoning ppl.

        2. I agree with you that the private prison industry as it exists today is fucked, but it’s not nearly as central or instrumental to the issues with the prison system as a whole as leftists make it out to be.

  10. It’s disappointing to see that Weldon Angelos didn’t make the cut. He was the small-time weed dealer in Utah that got a 55-year sentence about ten years ago. Even the judge who sentenced him has been actively lobbying for a pardon or commutation ever since.

  11. Doesn’t the guy sitting on the low bench seem to have a disproportionately large head?

  12. Have they included the five ranking terrorists he sent home from Gitmo?

    1. what is a ranking terrorist? to have a rank, one must be the member of a military.

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