A spike in pardons and commutations is common during the last couple of lame duck years of a president’s tenure. But if all goes according to plan, President Obama may put the last several commanders in chief to shame in the clemency department.
The New York Times reports that White House aids are expecting Obama to cast off a bevy of clemency orders for those incarcerated due to nonviolent drug offenses, more than any other president in decades.
In an effort to undo the harm done by decades of a misguided “war on drugs” and “new Jim Crow laws” that unfairly persecute Latinos and African-Americans, Obama is expected to commute the sentences of around 80 convicts. The gesture is hopefully only a warm up for taking more substantial bites out of the 30,000 clemency applications handed in to the White House over the last few months.
But this is not just the case of a rogue liberal president applying cosmetic solutions to the metastasized illness that is our legal system’s drug laws. Obama’s clemency plan reflects the changing attitudes on both sides of the aisle.
Koch Industries, the enormous company and major source for Republican campaign funds, is about as conservative as they come. And yet, the company is collaborating on a project with the Center for American Progress to shrink prison populations and fundamentally change sentencing.
“It’s a time when conservatives and liberals and libertarians and lots of different people on the political spectrum” have “come together in order to focus attention on excessive sentences, the costs and the like, and the need to correct some of those excesses,” Neil Eggleston, who consults on clemencies for the president, told the Times. “So I think the president sees the commutations as a piece of that entire process.”
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