In The 11th Hour of His Presidency, Barack Obama is Commuting Sentences

President Barack Obama Has Commuted More Sentences Than His Predecessors and Many of Them Are Black

Tamika Morrison
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Tamika Morrison

Editorial Director at RYSE INTERACTIVE
Lover of #Archetypes. #PRTherapist #Editor @RYSEConnected. #WanderlustDiaries Author of #1stLadyRules + Founder of @TMORRISONAGENCY #Closer2MyDreams #Part2
Tamika Morrison
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This article originally appeared on The Hill

 

Barack Obama, in the 11th hour of his presidency, has commuted the sentences of 1,176 federal prisoners, more than George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan combined. Most of the prisoners granted relief were victims of the notoriously racially biased “war on drugs.”

 

Many of the men and women released were serving unfair, exuberantly long and harsh sentences for low-level, nonviolent drug related charges, when what they really needed was drug treatment.

 

This bold move from President Obama was necessary and long awaited. However, the executive clemency process, has historically shown patterns of racial bias.

 

A 2011 ProPublica investigation found that even when applicants had committed similar crimes, “White criminals seeking presidential pardons over the past decade have been nearly four times as likely to succeed” and “Blacks have had the poorest chance of receiving the president’s ultimate act of mercy…”

 

In executive commutations, another form of clemency, race matters too. The Office of the Pardon Attorney, which reviews pardon and commutation requests, has been found to be biased regarding how and who it recommends for relief.

One sharp example was the handling of two federal commutation petitions. At the age of 24, Clarence Aaron was sentenced to triple life terms for his role in a cocaine deal. This was Aaron’s first criminal offense, and he was neither the buyer, seller, or supplier of the drugs.

 

Aaron’s application for executive commutation was not only supported by the judge who sentenced him, but also by the prosecuting attorney.

 

The pardon attorney’s office removed this information about the judge and various prosecutors’ support for Aaron from its summary and recommendation, and Aaron’s application was denied twice. On the same day in 2008 that Aaron’s petition was denied for the second time, another man serving life on drug charges, Reed Prior, was granted executive commutation.

 

Unlike Aaron, Prior had many prior offenses, was a major drug dealer, and was serving life due to his fourth drug offense: possession with the intent to distribute. Prior is white. Aaron is Black.

 

Clarence Aaron was eventually granted relief by President Obama in 2014,13 years after his first application. Both Aaron and Prior’s convictions grow out of the “war on drugs.”

 

That “war” known for its racial bias and injustice has been indisputably linked to the acceleration of mass incarceration and the destruction of lives and entire communities throughout the 80s and 90s.

 

This is part of why President Obama’s 1,176 commutations are just and appropriate. It would be equally appropriate for President Obama to look back to the 60s and 70s where there was another racially motivated and unjust war in America that also destroyed lives, devastated communities, and pushed people into prison.

 

To read more of this article click here.

 

Photo: source



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