by Amna El Tawil
During his final day as the President of the United States, Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 330 inmates. This act cemented his legacy of granting more commutations than any other president in the history of the United States.
A vast majority of people whose commutations were granted today were convicted of a federal drug crime. In his second mandate, Obama exercised his presidential power to grant clemency liberally, particularly for those convicted of nonviolent drug crimes. In addition to raising Obama’s total tally of sentences shortened, today’s flood of commutations is the most Obama or any US president has issued in a single day. Obama has commuted more people’s sentences than the last 13 presidents combined, according to the White House. In total, Obama commuted the sentences of 1,715 people, include more than 560 who were serving life sentences.
The Washington post published names of commuted prisoners here.
Neil Eggleston, Obama’s White House counsel said: “He wanted to do it. He wanted the opportunity to look at as many as he could to provide relief. He saw the injustice of the sentences that were imposed in many situations, and he has a strong view that people deserve a second chance.”
One notable omission from Obama’s final act of clemency is Leonard Peltier, the Native American activist who was sentenced to life in prison after he was accused of fatally shooting two FBI agents in 1975. Earlier this month, one of the lead prosecutors in Peltier’s case wrote an open letter to Obama, urging him to release Peltier. James Reynolds wrote that Peltier’s release would be “in the best interest of justice in considering the totality of all matters involved”. He will also leave office without granting commutations or pardons to accused Army deserter Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. He also declined to pardon former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
Obama personally reviewed the case of every inmate who received a commutation, often poring over case files in the evenings or calling his attorneys into his office to discuss specifics. Although a backlog of cases remains as Obama leaves office, his administration reviewed all applications that came in by an end-of-August deadline.
by Amna El Tawil