On Monday, President Obama granted clemency to 231 people, almost all of whom had been convicted for drug offenses. He issued 153 sentence commutations and 78 pardons. From the New York Times:
Those who received pardons had completed their sentences and are, in the words of Neil Eggleston, the White House counsel, now leading “a productive and law-abiding post-conviction life, including by contributing to the community in a meaningful way.” The pardons wipe away any legal liabilities from a conviction.
Commutations are different. They typically shorten the sentences of people in prison, often by many years, but do not eliminate a conviction or restore rights lost, such as the right to vote. In many cases, the people selected to have their sentences commuted have participated in drug treatment, or educational or vocational technology courses while in prison.
The Washington Post interviewed the attorney of clemency recipient Corey Jacobs of New York, serving a life sentence for a drug charge. “Corey has more than paid his debt to society by serving over 17 years of a life-without-parole sentence as a nonviolent drug offender,” attorney Brittany Byrd said. “Life in prison without the possibility of parole screams that a person is beyond hope, beyond redemption. And in Corey’s case, it is a punishment that absolutely did not fit the crime. The president’s mercy and belief in redemption literally saved Corey’s life.”
Last month, Obama granted clemency to 79 drug offenders, including 18 serving life sentences. All told, Obama has granted clemency to 1,324 people over the course of his presidency.
Correction, 11:20 p.m.: This post originally stated that President Obama has granted clemency to more people than any other president. This is not true.