Obama Squeezes in One More Round of Commutations, Granting Mercy to 330 Federal Prisoners

Going out with a bang


Erik S. Lesser/EPA/Newscom

One last act of mercy before hitting the road: President Barack Obama today announced one more final round of federal sentence commutations.

He's going out big: He granted 330 commutations to people in federal prison primarily for drug-related crimes. That's the most he's granted in one day. Combined with his Monday announcement commuting sentences for 209 people, that's more than 500 people granted mercy in his final week. His overall final total stands at 1,715 (and 212 pardons), meaning almost a third of his commutations came at the very end. And the overwhelming majority of his commutations came in the final two years of his second term (check out the chart here).

Nevertheless, the president facilitating the release of so many federal prisoners of the drug war, primarily victims of extremely harsh mandatory minimum sentences, is one of the areas where Obama has earned praise from libertarians. No, he hasn't seriously done much to scale back the brutal war on drugs. But he has freed many of its prisoners and has commuted more sentences than any president in history.

Even so, The Washington Post notes, Obama denied close to 15,000 clemency requests and more than 1,600 pardon requests. One aging gentleman caught up in a government drug sting will not be seeing the exit:

One inmate who was denied clemency is 64-year-old Bruce Harrison, a decorated Vietnam War veteran who was awarded two Purple Hearts. Harrison, who is in Coleman prison in Florida, is suffering from multiple health problems and has served 23 years of a 50-year sentence for his role in transporting drugs in a government sting operation.

After Harrison and other members of his motorcycle group were sentenced, several jurors said they were dismayed to learn of the long sentence that was imposed.

"If I would have been given the right to not only judge the facts in this case, but also the law and the actions taken by the government, the prosecutor, local and federal law enforcement officers connected in this case would be in jail and not the defendants," juror Patrick L. McNeil wrote afterward.

Below, ReasonTV interviewed three former prisoners who had their sentences commuted: