Clemency

Obama's Biggest Commutation Announcement Yet Will Help More than 200 Imprisoned in Drug War

Justice Department still expects more before presidency ends.

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Today President Barack Obama came close to doubling the number of people to whom his administration has extended clemency. The Department of Justice announced that 214 more people serving federal time in prison have been granted commutations. This announcement puts the total at 562.

Barack Obama
Cheriss May/NurPhoto/Sipa USA/Newscom

Chris Geidner at BuzzFeed was granted the scoop this time before the full list of names was released. An official from the Justice Department told BuzzFeed they're expecting additional commutation announcements in the time Obama has remaining in office.

Those receiving commuted sentences are all imprisoned for drug-related, non-violent crimes. Many of them are in federal prison for enhanced sentences related to crack instead of powder cocaine. Legislation has changed the sentencing laws so that crack sentences are now closer to parity with powder cocaine sentences, but the changes have not yet been made retroactive to those currently serving prison time.

Of the people receiving commutations, BuzzFeed notes, 67 were serving life sentences. Not all of those granted commutations will be released in the near future. A lot of them have been scheduled to be released in December, but others will have to continue serving until summer of 2018 and may have to enroll in residential drug treatment programs as a condition of release.

Read through the list of federal prisoners who will receive the president's mercy here. And below, ReasonTV interviewed three federal prisoners who previously received commutations:

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  1. Those receiving commuted sentences are all imprisoned for drug-related, non-violent crimes.

    I guess the Choom Gang was bigger than I thought.

    1. I’m told that gang has friends in high places.

      1. Where else would they be?

        1. +1 low blow

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  2. … and they’re still commutations, not pardons, and marijuana is still a Schedule I drug.

    1. And this is to be the most transparent administration ever. They’re working on it; give ’em some time.

    2. And it’s always toward the end of the presidential term, because apparently commutations are a shameful thing you do as you sneak away.

  3. …and may have to enroll in residential drug treatment programs as a condition of release.

    The Treatment Industrial Complex has to wet its beak in this somehow.

  4. “An official from the Justice Department told BuzzFeed they’re expecting additional commutation announcements in the time Obama has remaining in office.”

    So, will these post-election pardons come on Christmas or will he wait until January 19, 2017?

  5. Any chance he reschedules marijuana after the election?

    1. That would make people happy, so no.

  6. From the list: Barry Charles Butler ? Shelby, NC

    Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base; Western District of North Carolina

    Sentence: Life imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release (March 30, 2006)

    Life for getting together with a group to do your drug dealing? Goodness.

    1. I liked this guy from the previous batch:

      Eddie Brown
      Offense: Unlawful possession with intent to distribute 50 grams of cocaine base, 21 U.S.C. ? 841(b)(1)(A)(iii)
      District/Date: District of Columbia; September 20, 1990
      Sentence: Life imprisonment

  7. Release them all and expunge their records.

  8. You realize the more we extol (and demand) commutations while leaving marijuana federally illegal/schedule I drug, we are essentially feeding into the Imperial Presidency?

    1. Whereupon the Emperor brought in his personal castrato to soothe his nerves.

  9. So, not Chelsea Manning or any other whistleblower.

  10. I’m interested in seeing whether Obama will pardon Hillary for taking money from foreign governments while Secretary of State or pardon Hillary for using the Clinton Foundation as a conduit for illegal military technology transfers in exchange for cash.

    It will also be interesting to see whether Obama pardons himself for sending $400 million in taxpayer cash to the Iranians in a straight up bribe scheme that wasn’t anywhere near as noble as Iran-Contra (as if that were noble).

    But I guess we’re not talking about that stuff today. . . . tomorrow, or any other time until Trump is no longer running for President. Until then, the important thing is that Obama is commuting the sentences of some crack users.

    Did you guys know that Hillary Clinton cares about people? Well, it’s true. Obama cares about people, too, but Donald Trump makes fun of the parents of soldiers who died for their country. It’s true, and what could be more important than that?

    1. “I’m interested in seeing whether Obama will pardon Hillary for taking money from foreign governments while Secretary of State or pardon Hillary for using the Clinton Foundation as a conduit for illegal military technology transfers in exchange for cash.”

      Me too.
      And I’m looking forward to MSM coverage of those issues.

      1. sevo, my guess is that you will be looking forward for quite some time…..

    2. And libertarians, hell, they leave people alone and treat them as if they owned themselves. You can’t get more selfish than that! A true caring person steals everybody’s money and passes some of it back, in appropriate amounts, to those who are smart enough to not work and make money to be stolen.

    3. Can’t pardon someone who isn’t convicted.

      I know I’m stepping on your joke here, but I can’t muster any biting wit about the fact that our betters are definitely, totally, 100% above the law.

      1. Ford pardoned Nixon, and he wasn’t even impeached.

  11. Trump will ramp up the drug war.

    But of course he is not as extreme a socialist as Obama because:

    1. Finish the thought.

    2. He would fire people until Healthcare.gov actually worked?

    3. Actually Trump said in Colorado recently that it was up to the States.

  12. I will give credit where credit is due, this is a start. It should be every non violent drug “criminal” being released.

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  14. wtf is the Justice Department doing using BuzzFeed for leaks? Are we not even going to bother to pretend like these are news stories and not press releases?

  15. I see no one has yet done so:
    “Federal: “Fifty percent (95,800) of sentenced inmates in federal prison on September 30, 2014 (the most recent date for which federal offense data are available) were serving time for drug offenses (table 12, appendix table 5). In comparison to the 53% in state prisons, violent offenders represented 7% of the federal prison population (14,000 prisoners).”
    http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cm…..3z4tk.dpuf

    It isn’t clear, but for argument’s sake, lets presume the violent/no-violent ratio holds for the druggies and that the drug laws themselves were not the cause for that violence.
    So, 95,800 / 2 = 47,900 X 93% = 44,547 non-violent drug offenders in prison, and Obo, in his wisdom, kinda-sorta ‘releases’ 200 of them, something near 1/2 of 1%.
    Did the prison guards union get final say?

  16. All hail the LIGHTBRINGER!!!

    …Nevermind that his administration has been more aggressive in “granting” potheads life without parole than anyone else!

    Also, how the mighty have fallen: the President of the United States chooses not the NYT, not the NYP et al but fucking Buzzfeed to inform the plebs of his Grace and Mercy. Yet another sign that the old newspapers are already dead.

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  19. Obama continued the drug war so he could release some of those imprisoned under it to make him look compassionate.

  20. I don’t mind releasing user who possessed small amounts, but despite the author best attempts to hid it, that is not always the case

    30 of the 214 offenders were already felons when they were caught trafficking AND carrying a firearm.

    56 of 214 offenders broke federal firearm laws.

    Ralph Casas smuggled over 9,000 kilos of cocaine at an airport in FL.

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