Today, 273 individuals learned that the President has given them a second chance. With today’s 209 grants of commutation, the President has now commuted the sentences of 1,385 individuals – the most grants of commutation issued by any President in this nation’s history. President Obama’s 1,385 commutation grants – which includes 504 life sentences – is also more than the total number of commutations issued by the past 12 presidents combined. And with today’s 64 pardons, the President has now granted a total of 212 pardons.
Today, 209 commutation recipients – including 109 individuals who had believed they would live out their remaining days in prison – learned that they will be rejoining their families and loved ones, and 64 pardon recipients learned that their past convictions have been forgiven. These 273 individuals learned that our nation is a forgiving nation, where hard work and a commitment to rehabilitation can lead to a second chance, and where wrongs from the past will not deprive an individual of the opportunity to move forward. Today, 273 individuals – like President Obama’s 1,324 clemency recipients before them – learned that our President has found them deserving of a second chance.
While the mercy the President has shown his 1,597 clemency recipients is remarkable, we must remember that clemency is an extraordinary remedy, granted only after the President has concluded that a particular individual has demonstrated a readiness to make use of his or her second chance. Only Congress can achieve the broader reforms needed to ensure over the long run that our criminal justice system operates more fairly and effectively in the service of public safety.
Neil Eggleston is Counsel to the President.