Obama sets presidential record with 78 pardons, 153 commutations in one day

By Stephen Feller   |   Updated Dec. 20, 2016 at 6:28 AM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- Bringing the holiday spirit to some people who surely did not expect it, President Barack Obama commuted or pardoned 231 people currently serving prison sentences -- the largest single-day act of clemency in the history of the presidency.

Obama commuted 153 sentences and pardoned another 78 federal prisoners who have made the most of their time in jail, and who were there mostly with convictions related to the so-called War on Drugs.

This year alone, Obama has commuted the sentences of more than 1,000 people and 1,324 since taking office.

The number of clemencies is the most since President Lyndon Johnson, who surpassed 200, but still is nowhere near the number Obama has reached.

The number of prisoners whose sentences have been canceled by Obama is dwarfed by the number of people stuck in prison for the same things. The commutations, the Obama administration said, are part of improving the criminal justice system by giving inmates opportunity to become better people, and keeping people out of jail who should never have been there in the first place.

"While each clemency recipient's story is unique, the common thread of rehabilitation underlies all of them," Neil Eggleston, White House counsel to the president, said in a statement. "For the pardon recipient, it is the story of an individual who has led a productive and law-abiding post-conviction life, including by contributing to the community in a meaningful way. For the commutation recipient, it is the story of an individual who has made the most of his or her time in prison, by participating in educational courses, vocational training, and drug treatment."

Many in jail for non-violent drug offenses are given substance abuse trials where they often receive or end up serving more time than they should, the administration has said.

Eggleston said Obama plans to issue more grants of commutation and pardon before leaving office.

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