Friday, July 3, 2015

Obama: Commutations ...

The New York Times reports that "aides" expect President Obama "to issue orders freeing dozens of federal prisoners locked up on nonviolent drug offenses." We recall that, in 2013, an "unnamed administration official" successfully baited ProPublica with this line: "There will be 76 days between the election and inauguration for the president to exercise his [clemency] power." There followed a whole lot of nothing. But maybe it is different this time. Maybe.

The Times reports Obama "will probably commute more sentences at one time than any president has in nearly half a century" But the Editor of this blog will produce much more specific information on that topic when the time comes.

The Times then reports what we have all known for 6 years ... "The expansive use of his clemency power is part of a broader effort by Mr. Obama to correct what he sees as the excesses of the past ... With many Republicans and Democrats now agreeing that the nation went too far, Mr. Obama holds the power to unlock that prison door, especially for young African-American and Hispanic men disproportionately affected ... Mr. Obama has only begun to tackle the problem he has identified ... Overhauling the criminal justice system has become a bipartisan venture. Like Mr. Obama, Republicans running for his job are calling for systemic changes ..."

Then the piece then takes some odd turns, referring to Willie Horton - who was never pardoned by anyone - and by claiming "Mr. Obama started out much like the others, commuting just one sentence in his first five years in office." Mr. Obama was the slowest Democratic president to exercise the clemency power and, throughout most of his presidency, he has been one of the least merciful presidents in history. There is very little common about his presidency, when it comes to pardoning.

Former deputy attorney general James Cole says it is "a touchy situation” because the president does not "just supplant a judge’s determination of sentence.” Such a consideration has nothing to do with pardons, of course, and we are not sure that the judge's determination of sentence should be considered as long 1) judges are human 2) we have a system of checks and balances and 3) as we all know, the focus, currently is on federal prisoners who would not have been sentenced the way that they were under the current sentencing laws. The old sentencing guidelines were rejected by both parties in the House and the Senate. Nothing personal against the judges, No one should see it that way. See story here.

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