Bush Granted 189 Pardons; Obama has Granted Just 16: With So Many Black People in Prison under Dead Laws, Is This Acceptable?
President Barack Obama has been a cautious president, to say the least. After stating that he agrees that the War on Drugs was wrong and also agreeing that the crack-to-powder disparity was unacceptable, Obama has been as timid as a church mouse when it comes to using the power of the presidential pen to grant commutations or pardons for any of the tens of thousands of people who remain incarcerated under laws that legislators have deemed to be unjust.
One example of such antiquated laws is the famous crack-to-powder disparity. Under old federal laws, a person would receive a sentence for crack possession that was 100 times longer than the sentence they would receive for powder. As a result, thousands of Americans received sentences that were dozens, even hundreds of years long. One example would be Mario Lloyd in Chicago, who received 14 life sentences for his first offense, even though it was non-violent.
Lloyd has been in prison for nearly 25 years, and his daughter wrote an open letter to the judge who sentenced her father. In the letter, she noted that many of Mario’s children grew up without guidance because their father was away. One of his sons even died as a young man after being shot in Chicago. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not the world and the black community are better off when so many children have parents who are away in prison during their formative years? Many of these children eventually become prison inmates themselves.
President George W. Bush, a Republican who would hardly be considered friendly to the criminal justice system, granted 189 pardons during his time as president. Bill Clinton granted pardons and clemency to 456 Americans. Barack Obama, a proclaimed liberal who agrees that the War on Drugs was wrong, has granted only 16 pardons during his presidency, and one request for commutation. Most of these people are not African American, and many of them were released from prison long ago. One pardon was granted to Ronald Lee Foster, who received probation and a fine of $20 for mutilating coins in 1963.
Prison rights advocates and those who fight for the families of inmates are outraged by the arguably racist parole and pardon policies put forth by the Obama Administration. While they applaud the election of the first black president, the argument is that even a black person can be held responsible for the promotion of racist policies, even if it is by virtue of non-accountability for the actions of those around him.
Is Barack Obama doing all he can to help with the incarceration problem, or is he providing lip service?
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