Clemency

Obama Administration Approaches 1,000 Commutations

Today, 72 federal drug war prisoners get sentences reduced.

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Obama visiting prison
The White House/Sipa USA/Newscom

President Barack Obama and his administration may have dragged their feet in using his executive power to commute federal sentences to reduce the worst impacts of the misbegotten drug war, but they seem to be wanting to make up for lost time.

Today the White House announced another 72 commutations, a little more than a week since the last round of announcements, where he granted 98 people serving federal sentences mercy.

A scroll through the list shows that, as expected, all of these people were serving lengthy federal prison time for violating drug laws, including some who received enhanced sentences specifically because crack cocaine instead of powder cocaine was involved.

The tally, as it stands (and we still have time for more) is 944 commutations. Of those, 324 had received life sentences. Many of these folks in the latest round will not be strolling away from prison immediately. Some of them have had their sentences reduced to get them out next March. Some others won't be released for a whole year. Many will be required to enroll in residential drug treatment as a condition of release.

As Jacob Sullum has noted, all but one of these commutations have happened during Obama's second term and the overwhelming majority of them came during this final year of his administration.

In a message announcing the commutations, the White House called, as it frequently does, for Congress to pass criminal justice reform, particularly in easing mandatory minimum sentences in non-violent cases. While there's been a bipartisan push among both activists and lawmakers to ease back on drug war sentencing, the nature of this election has caused the effort to apparently stall.

Read the list of names and offenses here.

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  1. Good on him.

    (Insert Robby-style backtracking here)

    1. PS: Nice alt-text Scotty.

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  2. I mean, good on Obama for getting these people out of the box. But it would be better if he issued pardons rather than commutations so they wouldn’t have the convictions on their records and they wouldn’t have to do parole or drug treatment.

    He tries to pass himself off as a reformer, but really what he wants is a Kinder Gentler Drug War.

    1. Kinder and gentler is still better than the vile, racist, life-destroying drug war that we’ve all come to know and hate.

      Not perfect, but at least a step in the right direction.

      1. Just curious….

        How many of these 1000 people were put into prison on his watch?

        1. Not a ton. One of the (soft) requirements was 8-10 years served. Toward the end, the clemency project (the folks helping file most of the petitions for this program) began stretching it closer to 5 years served.

          One of the big reasons for the time served requirement is that the point of the clemency was to fix some of the draconian sentencing rules that had existed under Clinton and Bush, but were waived by Holder’s DOJ earlier on in Obama’s tenure. The whole point of the commutation was to get the sentence in line with how it would be if the trial happened today. Most of the people who were sentenced in the last 5 years were sentenced under the modern sentencing guidelines, and thus have no time to be commuted under this program.

          It’s not perfect, it’s a limited scope, but it’s better than nothing.

          1. The DOJ doesnt create sentencing guidelines. The DOJ’s office issued a set of reccomendations for the types of drug crimes that inidividual prosecutors should persue. Those recommendations hold no legal force and were ignored notably even by prosecutors under Holders tenure. Its nice that Obama is doing this for the people who get a commutation, but lets not pretend Obama is a drug war reformer. The inly actual recorm he was responsible for was the bill reducing crack sentencing. Even that “reform” leaves a wide sentencing disparity between rock & powder cocaine. And of course cocaine itself should be legal for purchase by any adult who wishes to use it.

      2. Yeah I want to see that part too, but the drug-treatment-industrial complex is its own special brand of grinding hell for people caught up in it.

        1. Not to mention the dui industrial complex, where you’re gang banged by the criminal courts, the dmv, the treatment industry, the insurance companies, and those fucking MADD cunts.

    2. One guy in Texas turned down the offer and decided to say in prison 8 more months until the end of the sentence as to avoid the mandated drub rehab condition of his commutation.

      He says he has been in rehab and other programs before and they never worked for him. He avoided the extra scrutiny mandated by the early release because if he got busted he had to go back for longer than 8 more months.

      1. Interesting…do you have a link?

      2. Wow, good for him. One day in prison/jail is worse than most of us will ever experience. That should tell everyone something about how rehab is BS.

        1. Yup. Man spends a decade in prison deserves a joint when he gets out if he wants one.

    3. His commutations sometimes don’t even take effect for months.

      It really is a publicity thing for Democrats because the Clinton era laws put some of these people in prison.

      If I was in the slammer, I would rather get out early but Obama could have made many of the commutations immediate.

    4. That’s what I don’t get. Why not full pardons, and why not right now with no preconditions. This wait til March or next year thing I don’t understand either.
      Better than not doing anything but kind of a half measure when he has full measure power.

      1. Maybe all the charity without the actual political blowback if one of these people does something that wrecks Hillary’s chances.

        Hillary already has so much on her plate.

        1. yeah getting people out of a cage is great at all but if theres even a remote chance that one of these chattel will be an embarrassment in the future they can rot in a dungeon no matter how hard they were railroaded. the political calculus is completely transparent & absolutely morally repugnant

  3. Some others won’t be released for a whole year.

    Reversed by President Trump!

    1. I wonder if Trump got elected if he would do a Christie and go after states like Colorado for marijuana legalization.

      1. He would put Christie in charge of it.

        1. *shudders*

        2. The only thing Trump would put Christine in charge of is wipe the jizz off of his own wife’s back after Trump is done fucking her.

  4. The commutations preserves the prison guards’ union. This way we can still put people in prison for these offences, but release them years later by the benevolent hand of empathy.

    1. ^^ this is not spoken by media at all.

    2. Ah, I should have scrolled down for my answer.

  5. He’s practicing for his own pardon.

    1. You mean Hillary’s.

  6. I can see him at his desk, speed-commuting a stack of applications, while watching his ‘legacy’ being steadily eroded on CNN

  7. Alt-alt-text: Are you Ready for Hillary?

    1. Wow, CE.

      I was going to post my own suggestion until I read yours.

      *begins sustained clapping*

    2. Alt-Alt-alt-text:
      Stronger To get her

      1. Alt-alt-alt-alt-text:

        “Do you know who else had barbed wire surrounding camps?”

  8. This is probably the best thing he’s done in his presidency. Too bad the number isn’t ten or a hundred times larger.

    1. Hopefully the daily numbers of commutations will increase after the election.

      1. ??? they will be reduced to zero the day clinton goes into office. why on earth would they *increase*?

        1. Time between Election Day and Inauguration Day (or would Obama wait until after the Electoral College meets and votes)?

  9. I didn’t see Hillary’s name on that list. He still toying with her?

    1. He’s still negotiating for his SCOTUS appointment

    2. I think Obama might be toying with her too.

  10. RE: Obama Administration Approaches 1,000 Commutations
    Today, 72 federal drug war prisoners get sentences reduced.

    What’s wrong with this picture?
    Giving mercy to the unenlightened masses?
    What next?
    Letting them think for themselves?

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  19. This is what you get when you elect a Community Agitator, someone more interested in letting criminals go free, (and voting democrat) than obeying the laws and have safe communities. Making the whole country look like his home town, Chicago. Clinton is from Chicago, as is Rahm Emanuel, Eric Holder, Bill Ayers… notice a pattern?

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