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As the Obama administration prepares to soar past George W. Bush's marks for denial of applications for presidential pardons and commutations of sentence, the New York Times reports that presidential aides say grants are coming. The head fake advertising campaign for this long-overdue, no brainer, action has surely been one of the most lengthy, and tiresome in history. Unfortunately, we are thoroughly prepared to be underwhelmed:
"I think the concerns are generally raised about mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders. And I think there are some questions that we ought to ask ... we ought to look at the statistics and see, are we putting in prison, are we using our limited prison space for the kind of people that we want to have there? Are the sentences commensurate with the kind of conduct that puts people in jail for these mandatory minimum sentences? Those are the kinds of questions I think that we ought to ask ... I would hope that we would ask those questions ... " - Deputy Attorney General, Eric Holder, March 1999
"… I think its time we took a hard look at the wisdom of locking up some first time nonviolent drug users for decades. Someone once said, and I quote: 'While minimum sentences for first-time users may not be the best way to occupy jail space, and/or heal people from their disease.' You know who said that? That was George W. Bush -- six years ago. And I don't say this very often, but I agree with George W. Bush. The difference is that he hasn't done anything about it. When I am President of the United States, I will." - Senator Barack Obama, October 2007
"… people who have made mistakes, particularly when they’re young … I don’t blame employers being nervous about hiring someone with a record … On the other hand, one of the great things about America is that we give people second chances." - Senator Barack Obama, January 2010.
"This is part of my faith, my religious faith, but you don't have to be religious to, I think, believe in the idea of redemption, that people can get a second chance that people can change." - Senator Barack Obama, January 2010.
"The president wanted to talk about two things, but the first was Michael [Vick],'' Lurie said, according to King. "He said, 'So many people who serve time never get a fair second chance. He was ... passionate about it. He said it's never a level playing field for prisoners when they get out of jail. And he was happy that we did something on such a national stage that showed our faith in giving someone a second chance after such a major downfall.''... Obama has long been a big supporter of giving ex-prisoners the opportunity to redeem themselves, and has worked on legislation with that goal in mind" ABC News, December 2010.
"Attorney Margaret Love, also welcomed the news of Obama's first commutation. "I'm very pleased," Love said. "I hope that it is a sign he intends to look at the many other people in federal prisons serving very long crack sentences which his own administration has called unjust." - Politico, November 2011
“There will be 76 days between the election and inauguration for the president to exercise his power,” said one official, who was not authorized to talk publicly and so spoke on the condition of anonymity. Officials said there has been growing interest inside the White House in reforming the pardon process, specifically how recommendations are made to the president. - Washington Post, July, 2012
"There are more low-level, nonviolent drug offenders who remain in prison, and who would likely have received a substantially lower sentence if convicted of precisely the same offenses today ... This is not fair, and it harms our criminal justice system." - Deputy Attorney General James Cole, January, 2014.
"In recent years, relying on the recommendation of the pardon attorney, presidents have pardoned fewer and fewer people each year and released only a handful early from prison ... That is set to change" - ProPublica, April 2014
"When I came into office, for the first couple of years, I noticed that I wasn't really getting a lot of recommendations for pardons — at least not as many as I would expect ... And many of them were for older folks... But sort of the more typical cases that I would have expected weren't coming up. Historically, what the president would get is a big stack of recommendations, and then I would sign off on them ... So what we've done now is open it up so people are more aware of the process." - President Barack Obama, March 2015
"... the President seems genuinely willing to consider requests for full pardon from people who have completed their sentences and “led an exemplary life, but now really want to be able to start a new career.” This is good news. President Obama has taken a commendable interest in prisoner requests for sentence commutation ..." - Collateral Consequences Resource Center, March 2015
"So we've revamped now the DOJ office. We're now getting much more representative applicants. And I think what you'll see is not only me exercising that pardon power and clemency power more aggressively for people who meet the criteria -- nonviolent crimes, have served already a long period of time, have shown that they're rehabilitated -- but also we're working with Democrats and Republicans around criminal justice reform issues." President Obama, March 2015
"Sometime in the next few weeks, aides expect President Obama to issue orders freeing dozens of federal prisoners locked up on nonviolent drug offenses" - New York Times, July 2015