Two years ago, the Obama administration commenced an effort to grant clemency to federal non-violent drug offenders who would have received shorter prison sentences had they been sentenced under subsequently revised advisory sentencing guidelines. Last week, President Obama granted clemency to 111 federal inmates, 35 of whom originally received life sentences. Earlier in August, Obama granted clemency to 214 similarly situated federal inmates. August’s clemency grants raises his total number of commutations to 673 – more than the past 10 presidents combined.
The administration is attempting to address a substantial number of clemency petitions in its final months. This effort is apparently angering several Republicans in the House and Senate; however, and given the fact that he is finishing his second term, Washington insiders believe that Obama couldn’t care less. Obama is, in fact, the first sitting US President to tour a prison facility, having visited El Reno FCI in Oklahoma last year where he, among other things, actually met with inmates. He has also had lunch with clemency recipients. All indications are that he truly believes in this and, given the end of his tenure, can act without fear of major political repercussions.
As discussed previously on this blog, the clemency initiative was intended to address the sentences of non-violent offenders sentenced under now-amended sentencing guidelines that previously set longer sentences for their particular offenses. The problem that the administration faces is that several thousand federal inmates, including white collar defendants, defendants convicted of violent offenses and sex offenders, all applied for clemency, thereby flooding the program with petitions. Continue reading