Obama picks up in­mate re­prieve pace

Par­dons tur­keys

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY DAVE BOYER

Pres­i­dent Obama granted the tra­di­tional pres­i­den­tial “par­don” Wed­nes­day for two Thanks­giv­ing tur­keys, a mock ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion that is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly fa­mil­iar in real life as he forges new pol­icy at a record pace of re­prieves for fed­eral prison in­mates.

As of this week, Mr. Obama has com­muted the prison sen­tences of 79 con­victed felons in 2015, eclips­ing the to­tal num­ber of com­mu­ta­tions granted by all four of his pre­de­ces­sors com­bined.

The pres­i­dent has picked up the pace of clemency ac­tions dra­mat­i­cally, in­clud­ing 46 com­mu­ta­tions on a sin­gle day in July, af­ter grant­ing none in his first two years in of­fice.

Mr. Obama has now com­muted more sen­tences than any pres­i­dent since Lyn­don B. John­son.

“I be­lieve that at its heart, Amer­ica is a na­tion of sec­ond chances, and I be­lieve th­ese folks de­serve their sec­ond chance,” Mr. Obama said when he is­sued the re­prieves last sum­mer.

It’s part of the pres­i­dent’s push for crim­i­nal-jus­tice re­form that was an­nounced early last year to free non­vi­o­lent drug of­fend­ers, in­mates re­ferred to by for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric H. Holder Jr. as “de­serv­ing in­di­vid­u­als who do not pose a threat to pub­lic safety.”

White House coun­sel Neil Eg­gle­ston told the Fed­er­al­ist So­ci­ety in Wash­ing­ton ear­lier this month that the ad­min­is­tra­tion is “ramp­ing up” ef­forts to grant clemency, in­clud­ing assem­bling an army of more than 1,500 lawyers na­tion­wide to work pro bono preparing pe­ti­tions for the ad­min­is­tra­tion to con­sider.

There are now more than 9,000 pris­on­ers’ pe­ti­tions pend­ing for clemency. When Repub­li­can Ge­orge W. Bush left of­fice in Jan­uary 2009, there were about 1,300 pe­ti­tions await­ing ac­tion. It’s been es­ti­mated that more than 16 per­cent of the en­tire fed­eral in­mate pop­u­la­tion has ap­plied for clemency.

The crim­i­nal-jus­tice re­form ef­fort has supporters on both sides of the aisle, in­clud­ing none other than bil­lion­aire in­dus­tri­al­ist Charles Koch, whose Koch In­dus­tries is urg­ing sup­port of White House-backed leg­is­la­tion to re­duce the swelling fed­eral prison pop­u­la­tion, a re­sult in large part from lengthy sen­tences that were a re­sponse to the crack co­caine wave of the 1980s.

Mr. Obama even gave a shout out to the Koch broth­ers at the an­nual NAACP con­ven­tion in July for back­ing the leg­isla­tive ini­tia­tive. When the au­di­ence laughed, Mr. Obama re­sponded, “No, you’ve got to give them credit. You’ve got to call it like you see it.”

Peo­ple can ap­ply for ex­ec­u­tive clemency — par­dons and com­mu­ta­tions — through the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s Of­fice of the Par­don At­tor­ney. The ap­pli­ca­tions must go through the deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice be­fore they are re­ferred to the White House.

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