Obama pardons 78, shortens the sentence for 153
President Barack Obama has pardoned 78 people and shortened the sentence of 153 others convicted of federal crimes, the greatest number of individual clemencies in a single day by any president, the White House said.
Obama has been granting commutations at rapid-fire pace in his final months in office, but he has focused primarily on shortening sentences of those convicted of drug offenses rather than giving pardons.
A pardon amounts to forgiveness of a crime that removes restrictions on the right to vote, hold state or local office, or sit on a jury. The pardon also lessens the stigma arising from the conviction. The pardons issued yesterday were for a wide range of offenses, such as possession of counterfeit currency, felon in possession of a firearm and involuntary manslaughter.
One Tennessee man was pardoned after being dismissed from the military in 1990 for conduct unbecoming an officer (shoplifting.)
Neil Eggleston, Obama's White House counsel, said Obama has now pardoned a total of 148 people during his presidency.
He has also shortened the sentences of 1,176 people, including 395 serving life sentences.
Eggleston said each clemency recipient's story is unique, but a common thread of rehabilitation underlies all of them.
Pardon recipients have shown they have led a productive and law-abiding post-conviction life, including by contributing to the community in a meaningful way, he said.
Commutation recipients have made the most of his or her time in prison by participating in educational courses, vocational training, and drug treatment, he said. Not all of those receiving commutations will be set free right away.
Some will see their sentences end in 2017 or 2018 long after Obama leaves office and in some cases on the condition they participate in drug treatment programs.
"These are the stories that demonstrate the successes that can be achieved by both individuals and society in a nation of second chances," Eggleston said.
The commutations were announced as Obama vacations in Hawaii during the holidays. Obama leaves office falling short in efforts to overhaul the nation's criminal justice system.
Congress could not reach agreement on legislation that would lead to shorter sentences for some.