President Obama Grants Clemency & Commutes More Sentences Than Last 10 Presidents Combined

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Even though his Presidency is winding down, President Obama is busy trying to write the wrongs of others.

On December 19, 2016, President Obama granted clemency to 231 individuals, the largest single day act of his presidency and totaling 1,324 total while in office.

Obama granted 153 commutations, bringing the total number of commutations while he’s been in office to 1,176, including 395 life sentences. According to the White House, that’s more than the 10 previous presidents combined.

Obama also granted pardons to 78 individuals, doubling his previous number of pardons for a total of 148.

White House Counsel Neil Eggleston said Monday that he expects Obama will issue even more grants of commutations and pardons before leaving office.

Obama has previously said he hopes to bring the existing sentences of inmates more in line with current laws, which have been relaxed after an era of strict mandatory minimums mostly related to non-violent drug crimes.

“The 231 individuals granted clemency today have all demonstrated that they are ready to make use — or have already made use — of a second chance,” Eggleston said in his statement.
“While each clemency recipient’s story is unique, the common thread of rehabilitation underlies all of them,” he said.

Obama was once referred to as one of the least merciful in history, having ended his first term without making much use of his clemency power. In his second term, however, addressing the impact of the war on drugs, which many say has significantly contributed to the country’s high levels of incarceration, has come front and center as a major administration initiative.


The majority of the individuals whose sentences were shortened had been imprisoned for drug trafficking offenses, including crack-cocaine and methamphetamine. Over 35 of the individuals who were granted clemency had been sentenced to life in prison for drug crimes. Many of the prisoners will be released by Dec. 28, not long before the president is set to leave office. Some will stay behind bars until 2018.

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The early release of the prisoners, mostly low-level drug offenders, is part of Obama’s effort to correct what he views as unreasonably long mandatory minimum sentences. Some date back decades, including 71-year-old Richard L. Reser of Sedgwick, Kan., who was given a 40-year sentence for dealing methamphatamine and firearm possession in 1989…

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