On his last day in office, President Obama granted commutations to more than 300 individuals, a large number of whom were serving time for gun and drug-related convictions.
The 330 commutations added to the already record-breaking number of commutations issued by Obama, bringing the total to 1,715, including 568 individuals who were serving life sentences. 212 pardons have also been issued by Obama, according to The White House blog.
“With today’s action, the President has granted more commutations than any president in this nation’s history and has surpassed the number of commutations granted by the past 13 presidents combined,” wrote Neil Eggleston, Counsel to the President. “The President set out to reinvigorate clemency, and he has done just that.”
In 2014, citing outdated laws, Obama asked the Department of Justice to encourage federal inmates to apply for clemency, resulting in an unprecedented number of applications.
Many of those inmates, who were sentenced under what Eggleston called “outdated and overly harsh” laws, received help from the Clemency Project 2014, a network of lawyers, other professionals, and advocates dedicated to providing assistance, at absolutely no charge, to those seeking clemency. Additionally, many of the inmates have already – or will receive – reentry assistance through the Stanford Justice Advocacy Project.
“You have been granted a second chance because the President sees the potential in you,” Eggleston wrote to the commutation and pardon recipients. “After reviewing each of your stories, the President concluded that you have taken substantial steps to remedy your past mistakes and that you are deserving of a second chance.”
According to the Justice Department, all of the following criteria must be met by those seeking clemency. They are currently serving a federal sentence in prison and, by operation of law, likely would have received a substantially lower sentence if convicted of the same offense(s) today;
- They are non-violent, low-level offenders without significant ties to large scale criminal organizations, gangs or cartels;
- They have served at least 10 years of their prison sentence;
- They do not have a significant criminal history;
- They have demonstrated good conduct in prison;
- They have no history of violence prior to or during their current term of imprisonment.
Obama wrote in a Twitter post that he was proud to make this one of his final actions as President in a nation of second chances.
“Make the President proud with how you use your second chance,” Eggelston said.