Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Smart Pardoning.Welcome. Long Overdue. Presidential Aspirants Take Note

Today, President Obama granted 22 commutations of sentence. We consider these grants to be among the more intelligent we have seen in many a year. This is smart pardoning. Why?

1. The President's grants clearly addressed a matter which, increasingly, Republicans and Democrats, Conservative and Liberals, have come to agree on. The so-called War on Drugs has not worked out well. It has, however, run our prisons to capacity and beyond.

2. Mandatory and overly harsh sentences have long been in the controversial mix and both parties in both chambers of Congress got rid of the sentencing guidelines used to punish many of these clemency recipients.

3. Most of today's recipients served more than a decade in prison. Six of them spent two decades behind bars. No one can intelligently, fairly, say that the president just sprung them into the streets, or that they, somehow, "escaped punishment." They suffered plenty.

4. These pardons were not granted in December, like 1 of every 2 for the last 39 years. Holding applications and issuing grants until December is a horrible practice. It sends numerous wrong signals (pardons are gifts - to people who may or may not be deserving, pardons are last minute decisions, etc.)

5. Clemency decisions have, for too long, appeared arbitrary, capricious and almost random. Those aspects further fed the notion that recipients are, more than likely, "connected" in some way, or have personal ties to people who are "connected." These decisions, however, look like there was a thought process behind them. They look like the kind of thing you would expect from someone who is concerned about systematically addressing well-know issues of criminal justice - as opposed to someone simply moving paperwork and getting applications out of the way.

This is a great day for the pardon power. Make no mistake, we could stand for many more!

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