Instead of clemency for 46, Obama should be giving a presidential pardon to tens of thousands
President Obama announced yesterday that he will commute “unduly harsh sentences” for 46 federal prisoners as part of an effort to counteract draconian penalties handed out to nonviolent drug offenders in the past.
“These men and women were not hardened criminals but the overwhelming majority had been sentenced to at least 20 years,” Obama said in a video announcing the commutations. “Fourteen of them had been sentenced to life for nonviolent drug offenses.”
Over 18,000 inmates filled out electronic surveys to apply for reduced sentences from President Barack Obama. One applicant I had read about was Dicky Joe Jackson. He was caught selling meth in order to pay for a bone marrow transplant for his young son.
He told The Huffington Post earlier this week that he had seen “child molesters come in and out of here, rapists come in and out of here, murderers come in and out here.” Meanwhile Jackson was still serving a life sentence without parole. Jackson, by the way, was not included on Obama’s list of 46.
Which bring me to my first point. If Obama wants to show mercy to non-violent drug criminals, why stop at 46? To date, Obama has only issued approximately 90 commutations in country that has roughly 100,000 inmates in federal prison convicted of drug crimes. If you are going to give clemency to prisoners who’ve long served their time, it shouldn’t be like winning a lottery.
It was unfair to have their freedom taken away from them in the first place for such a petty crime, and now they languish in prison year after year with no chance of a normal life. The Public has to keep in mind that most coke dealers are not Tony Montana, and most Meth dealers are not Walter White. In fact most drug kingpins and the banksters that launder their money rarely go to jail. It is none violent street merchants that go to prison.
According to Think Progress; some senior officials have suggested the president could grant mass clemency before the end of his term. Even if that turns out to be true and Obama frees thousands of drug war prisoners, they will likely be made up of those who have already served extreme sentences. The rest of them will be left to rot under a new administration, hopefully not a tough on crime, private prison supporting Republican.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that President Obama has done anything wrong here, just that he hasn’t done enough. For argument’s sake, let’s say he grants clemency to the 100,000 drug offenders now rotting in federal prison.
These are all people who will keep their criminal records, who will never be able to vote in certain states, who will essentially remain second class citizens. As much as these inmates want their freedom, I’m sure they’d prefer going back to a normal life.
If Obama is serious about showing mercy and perhaps taking steps to end the useless War on Drugs, he should be granting these drug offenders a presidential pardon which would completely erase their criminal record.
Obviously, with the current makeup of Congress, Obama doesn’t have the power to end the War on Drugs himself, but he certainly has the power to bring justice and freedom back to tens of thousands of American prisoners of war. A trillion dollar war on drugs that needs to end yesterday. If Obama cares about his legacy, he should take that big first step.