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President Obama grants record number of commutations, pardons in one day

December 20, 2016  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
President Obama grants record number of commutations, pardons in one day President Obama toured the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in Oklahoma. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

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On Monday, President Obama pardoned 78 individuals and conferred another 153 commutations, amounting to the most acts of clemency ever granted by a U.S. president in one day.

Neil Eggleston, the White House Counsel, announced the decisions in an official blog post. He referred to all the individuals being pardoned or having their sentences reduced as “deserving.”

“The 231 individuals granted clemency have all demonstrated that they are ready to make use – or have already made use – of a second chance,” the post read.

According to Fox News, Obama also previewed new clemency decisions that will come about in the weeks ahead, and stated: “I expect that the President will issue more grants of commutations and pardons before he leaves office.”

These decisions may ignite criticism from the right, following a presidential campaign in which President-elect Donald Trump struck a law-and-order message and suggested that officials were too lenient on crime.

However, President Obama has been awarding commutations at a rapid-fire pace as his term in office comes to an end, focusing primarily on reducing sentences of those convicted of drug offenses rather than pardons.

Pardons are essentially acts of forgiveness of a crime that eliminates restrictions on one’s right to vote, serve on a jury, or run for any office at the state or local level. The pardon also decreases the stigma arising from the verdict.

Eggleston said that the president has now pardoned a 148 people during his tenure and has reduced the sentences of 1,176 people, including 395 who were serving life behind bars.

Eggleston also noted that each clemency recipient’s story is different, but a common theme of rehabilitation underlies them all. Pardon recipients have displayed that they have lived a productive and law-abiding post-conviction life, which include contributing to the community in meaningful ways.

The commutations were announced as Obama is vacationing in Hawaii with his family for the holidays.

Many of those on Monday’s list were sentenced on drug-related charges. Groups that have pushed the president to use his clemency powers praised the decision, prompting him to go further in the concluding days of his administration.

“As the clock counts down on the Obama administration, the need for commutations of these non-violent drug offenders — and much more like them — is more important than ever,” Jessica Jackson Sloan, the national director of #cut50, declared in a statement.

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