The Electoral College met Monday and formally elected Donald Trump to serve as the next President of the United States.
Even as that was happening, President Obama was quietly making some parting actions as he enters the final month of his term.
This move will put him in the history books.
The Hill reported that “President Obama on Monday granted clemency to 231 federal inmates, the most in a single day by any president in U.S. history.” A total of 153 people received commuted prison sentences while 78 others were pardoned. In one day, Obama more than doubled the number of pardons he has issued throughout his entire presidency for a grand total of 1,176 commuted sentences including 395 people who had been serving life sentences.
Commutations are common among outgoing presidents. But pardons, which “formally forgive prisoners ford their crimes and restore certain rights” are much less common.
White House counsel Neil Eggleston wrote that “today’s acts of clemency – and the mercy he has shown his 1,324 clemency recipients – exemplify his belief that America is a nation of second chances.” He also said that more clemency grants are expected from President Obama before he leaves office next month.
A bipartisan effort to revamp the nation’s sentencing laws, based in large part on mandatory sentences for drug offenders, failed in 2014. Since that time, Obama has used his clemency and pardon power to accomplish his goal.
“The clemency initiative identifies federal prisoners deserving of an early release. Prisoners must be low-level, nonviolent offenders who have served at least a decade of their sentence, demonstrated good behavior, and have no significant criminal history or a history of violence.”
President Obama has faced mounting pressure from criminal-justice reform groups who fear that President-elect Trump will significantly limit the number of commuted sentences and pardons during his tenure in the White House. Trump campaigned heavily as a “law-and-order candidate.”
While many on the left are praising Obama’s executive action, critics claim he has let dangerous criminals back on the streets.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., called Obama’s clemency initiative “an alarming abuse of the pardon power.” Sessions is President-elect Trump’s nominee for attorney general. The Hill noted that approximately 13,000 inmate petitions have yet to be reviewed.
Source: The Hill