By Angela Wills
The decision of President Obama to shave off time of the sentences of 95 federal prisoners on Friday was an extension of a trend in Christmastime clemency that’s being viewed as part of a broken process.
Obama said the clemency grants – the greatest single-day use of his power to pardon in his presidential seat to this day,”Another step forward in upholding our fundamental ideals of justice and fairness.”
He also granted complete pardons to two people involved in bank fraud and counterfeiting, according to an announcement made by the White House.
The majority of the commutations were granted to drug offenders who initially received long mandatory minimum sentences, but included 15 gun crimes as well, while committing a drug related offense and also included one bank robbery.
Obama has to date commuted prison sentences of 184 people, which is more than any president since the 226 commuted by Lyndon Johnson.
Legal professionals who study clemency say regular use of the power is a good check and balance to the expense generated by long prison sentences. However, they do question why so many of Obama’s grants follow through weeks before Christmas.
The president has pledged to issue more commutations in 2016, through an initiative meant to correct what is seen as an injustice in the laws of sentencing that was passed down during the war on drugs. Several drug offenders received long sentences for trafficking considerably small amounts of drugs, specifically crack cocaine, which received harsher sentencing than equal amounts of powder cocaine.
The list includes the release of 40 people which are set to be released in April of 2016.
The president has the power to grant reprieves and pardons for offences against the U.S under the constitution. The power of the president is limited to federal offenses, most states issue governors a similar power over crimes on a state level.
The power to issue pardons and clemency is one of the most profound authorities granted to the president of the U.S, is what Obama wrote in a letter to each inmate receiving clemency. “It 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.”
60% of the clemency warrants granted by Obama have come in the month of December.