Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Presidential Clemency

You might have heard: Obama Commutes Sentences For 72 More Federal Inmates, All Things Considered, NPR, Nov. 5, 2016. But you might be a little shaky on the whole commutation thing. Is Obama's action unusual? What's the difference between commutation and pardon? How does it all work?

President Obama has commuted more sentences than all the presidents since Truman, combined.

chart shows Obama's commutations greatly outnumbering other Presidents'
Graph comparing commutations by 12 presidents.

For notes on executive clemency throughout U.S. history, see the Pardon Power blog, by political scientist P. S. Ruckman. You can sort the posts by president, state, and other categories. I was curious about Washington, and found an interesting piece about Roy Olmstead, the defendant in Olmstead v. United States, the famous wiretapping case. Did you know he was a Seattle police officer?

Interested in women's rights or election law? Check out the entry about Susan B. Anthony and the election officials who were convicted of allowing her to register.

For 100 years, petitions for clemency have gone through the Department of Justice's Office of the Pardon Attorney, which has a lot of information about the process.
President Obama explains his thinking about commutations for non-violent drug offenses in a video:

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