Obama Gives The Gift Of Clemency, Sparingly

by Dish Staff

Obama Pardons

Maya Rhodan passes along news of Obama’s “Christmas clemency”:

Obama granted 12 pardons to people convicted of various crimes from 1964 to 1997: possession of an unregistered distillery, counterfeiting, and conspiracy to transport a stolen car. Obama also commuted the sentences of eight federal prisoners serving lengthy sentences for drug crimes. None claim to be innocent, but they argued that they’ve served their time. In many cases, the crimes would not have received the same punishment if they were committed today. …

Matt Ford highlights Obama’s reluctance to exercise his pardoning power:

Presidential pardons have declined since World War II, excluding cases of mass amnesty like Jimmy Carter and the Vietnam draft-dodgers, but Obama’s sparing use still stands out: Until Wednesday, one in seven of his pardons had beenissued for Thanksgiving turkeys.

A 2012 investigation by ProPublica found that an applicant’s chance of receiving a pardon under Obama was only one in 5,000, compared to one in 1,000 under George W. Bush and one in 100 under Ronald Reagan. Obama seldom grants pardons beyond the traditional holiday-season batch. His April 15 commutation of Ceasar Huerta Cantu’s sentence is a rare exception. A typo had accidentally lengthened Cantu’s sentence by 42 months, and a court ruled that only presidential clemency could correct the error.

Christopher Ingraham chimes in:

[C]lemency reform has never been a truly comprehensive approach to fixing the problems of our justice system. The president is unlikely to grant relief to tens of thousands of inmates. Rather, true reform will only happen by reworking sentencing rules so that we’re not locking people up for low-level crime to begin with.

The Smarter Sentencing Act would have been a modest step in this direction. It would have reduced, but not eliminated, mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders. But despite bipartisan support, Congress left it on the table unfinished this year.