Friday, December 18, 2015

On Pardons, Obama’s the Stingiest President Since John Adams

...Executive clemency is one of the few powers clearly reserved for the president in the Constitution. It includes commutations (reducing sentences considered excessive) and pardons (cleansing the criminal record of freed prisoners deemed worthy of a second chance.)

Thanks to the punitive fervor of the war on drugs, by the time Obama took office federal prisons were packed with inmates serving sentences measured in decades for possession or minor trafficking. A bipartisan consensus was arising that America—with 5 percent of the world’s population and nearly 25 percent of its prisoners—had gone overboard.

Advocates who see the president’s power as a way to alleviate the excess see the process bogged down, as Bush warned, in a Justice Department that lacks the attention (and, apparently, the will) to vet candidates for clemency.

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