April 3rd, 2016 15:12 EST
President Obama Has Now Commuted the Sentences of 248 Individuals
Today, the President announced 61 new grants of commutation to individuals serving years in prison under outdated and unduly harsh sentencing laws. More than one-third of them were serving life sentences. To date, the President has now commuted the sentences of 248 individuals " more than the previous six Presidents combined. And, in total, he has commuted 92 life sentences.
Underscoring his commitment not just to clemency, but to helping those who earn their freedom make the most of their second chance, the President will meet today with commutation recipients from both his Administration and the previous administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. During the meeting, the commutation recipients will discuss their firsthand experiences with the reentry process and ways that the process can be strengthened to give every individual the resources he or she needs to transition from prison and lead a fulfilling, productive life.
Building on this conversation, tomorrow the White House will host a briefing titled Life After Clemency with advocates, academics, and Administration officials to discuss and share ideas on the President`s clemency initiative and ways to improve paths to reentry. In addition to officials from the White House and the Department of Justice, experts, academics, and commutation recipients will share their expertise and insights on returning to society after years behind bars. To watch the briefing live, tune in tomorrow, Thursday, March 31, at 2:00 PM EDT at www.whitehouse.gov/live.
Throughout the remainder of his time in office, the President is committed to continuing to issue more grants of clemency as well as to strengthening rehabilitation programs. As he wrote in a letter to the 61 individuals receiving clemency today:
The power to grant pardons and commutations " embodies the basic belief in our democracy that people deserve a second chance after having made a mistake in their lives that led to a conviction under our laws. "
And, he cautioned those receiving clemency that what they do with this unexpected opportunity reflects not only on each individual person, but also on all those still behind bars who are seeking that same shot at a new life.
Despite the progress we have made, it is important to remember that clemency is nearly always a tool of last resort that can help specific individuals, but does nothing to make our criminal justice system on the whole more fair and just. Clemency of individual cases alone cannot fix decades of overly punitive sentencing policies. So while we continue to work to resolve as many clemency applications as possible " and make no mistake, we are working hard at this " only broader criminal justice reform can truly bring justice to the many thousands of people behind bars serving unduly harsh and outdated sentences.
Fortunately, we are at a unique moment in history where such reform is possible. For the first time in a quarter century, Americans across the board acknowledge that the criminal justice system is broken and needs to change. This is no longer a partisan issue: Republicans and Democrats agree that many sentencing laws are outdated and unnecessarily harsh. We are continuing to work in bipartisan fashion to secure those much-needed, long-overdue reforms in Congress so that thousands more deserving individuals may benefit from the second-chance that these individuals earned today.
Neil Eggleston is White House Counsel to the President
Photo Credit: Wikipedia