President Obama Grants Pardons to 78
President Barack Obama granted pardons to 78 people and 153 commutations earlier this week. The numbers marked a new record for a single day for use of the presidential clemency power.
With only 31 days remaining in his second and final term in office, the President has more than doubled the amount of pardons that he granted in his prior seven years in office.
He also continued to carry out use of his clemency powers that is lesser known having commuted sentences for 1,176 inmates at federal prisons. The majority were for long, mandatory minimum sentences related to drugs that were imposed during a time there was a war on drugs over the last three decades.
However, for Obama time is running out to address the clemency cases in backlog. As of November 30, over 1,937 petitions for pardon and more than 13,000 applications for sentence commutations were pending.
A Drug Policy Alliance spokesperson said that it needed Obama to increase his pace for commutations prior to leaving office.
He should be applauded for the actions he has taken to date, but the worry, said the spokesperson, is that the next White House occupant is not sympathetic to the plight of the people serving sentences that are unjust.
In 2014, Obama started a clemency initiative as his way of shortening the sentences of offenders in drug cases that were given what he believes to be too harsh sentences.
His effort has a new urgency after Donald Trump was elected. Trump has named as attorney general one of Obama’s biggest critics when it comes to commutations.
In all, including both commutations and full pardons, Obama had granted more clemency acts since President Truman.
With over half of the clemency acts by Obama being carried out in his final year in office, the surge of clemencies has been called the greatest in history.
The numbers even exceed pardons granted by President Bill Clinton during his final months in office.
However, unlike Clinton, who carried out his power to grants pardons to help political allies and his relatives, the pardons granted by Obama this week did not include politically charged benefactors.
Names tossed in the air have included Hillary Clinton and Edward Snowden but pardons all must go through the same cycle.