Monday, July 22, 2013

Saunders: Trayvon Martin v. Clarence Aaron

Debra J. Saunders, at the San Francisco Chronicle, notes that it was almost a year ago that the White House "said it wanted to review the commutation petition of a black man sentenced to life without parole in 1993 for a first-time nonviolent drug conviction." Yet, in his recent speech regarding Trayvon Martin, and the African-American community's "acute awareness" of "racial disparities" in "everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws," the President "ignored his own failure to redress a racial inequity by freeing Clarence Aaron." Writes Saunders:
You might say that under different circumstances, Barack Obama could have been Clarence Aaron.
As such, the President should really "clean up his own turf." More specifically, he should "use the pardon power" to apply the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 retroactively. This would address what Families Against Mandatory Minimums President Julie Stewart calls - in effect - "serving death in prison" for first time, non-violent drug offenses. Saunders notes:
A growing number of conservatives -- ranging from Jeb Bush to Ed Meese -- have signed the Right On Crime statement of principles, which challenges Washington's "reliance on prisons" and policies that harden low-risk offenders who could be rehabilitated. With this movement, Obama could use the pardon power in a cause that brings left and right together. Alas, it appears the president seems interested in racial disparity only when he can use it as a crowbar to pry the country further apart. When he has the authority and ability to correct federal racial inequities, he is missing in action. 
See full editorial here.

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