Obama’s clemency total now stands at 872.
By; Ryan J. Reilly Senior Justice Reporter, The Huffington Post
WASHINGTON ― President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 98 federal prisoners on Thursday, meaning he has shortened the sentences of 872 individuals over the course of his presidency.
The individuals granted clemency on Thursday were imprisoned for drug crimes. Dozens of them had been sentenced to life imprisonment, meaning they would have died behind bars without Obama’s intervention.
The president reduced the sentences of 102 inmates earlier this month, which brought his total clemency number to 774. He had granted clemency to 214 federal prisoners in early August and another 111 inmates in late August, shortening the sentences of 325 people in a single month. With Thursday’s announcement, he has now commuted 200 sentences in the month of October.
Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said Thursday’s announcement was “part of our ongoing commitment to bring fairness” to the criminal justice system.
“These grants reflect the Department’s accelerated progress in prioritizing and reviewing petitions that fit the President’s Clemency Initiative. As we’ve said before, the Department of Justice remains committed to reviewing and providing a recommendation on every petition submitted by August 31 of this year that involves a drug crime. And we will continue to prioritize the review any drug related petitions that have been submitted since that time,” Yates said.
Jessica Jackson Sloan, national director of #cut50, a criminal justice reform initiative that seeks to reduce the incarcerated population in the U.S. by 50 percent over a decade, applauded Obama’s announcement but said it was “imperative” that he keep the promise he made to those “serving unjust and overly harsh sentences” for drug offenses.
“While today’s announcement means some families will be made whole, many more petitioners were denied ― the vast majority denied with no explanation,” Sloan said. “The clemency process is sorely lacking in transparency ― with little regard for the emotional impact these decisions have on individuals and their families. For those who were neither denied, nor granted mercy, time is running out. Each passing day brings heightened desperation and anxiety. Some are beginning to lose hope as the clock continues to tick.”
As The Huffington Post has reported, the Obama administration’s clemency initiative has fallen short of expectations:
While the number of commutations granted during the Obama administration are historic, many advocates had hoped that thousands of individuals would be granted clemency under the initiative, which is aimed at shortening lengthy drug sentences that were often a result of federal mandatory minimums. Former Attorney General Eric Holder has said he expected as many as 10,000 prisoners to be granted clemency. Rachel Barkow, a New York University professor, told The Huffington Post that around 1,500 federal prisoners met the criteria that the Obama administration laid out for the initiative.