Congressman To Trump: Commute Sentences For 16,000 Non-Violent Prisoners

By Paul Gaita 07/03/19

"Justice delayed is justice denied. Please do the right thing," Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen wrote in his letter to Trump. 


Steve Cohen, the Democratic Congressman from Tennessee's 9th District, sent a tartly worded letter to President Donald Trump recommending that he commute the prison sentences of approximately 16,000 non-violent drug offenders.

In the letter, Cohen wrote that he was inspired to send the request after Trump commuted the life sentence of Tennessee resident Alice Marie Johnson in 2018, and added that many other individuals currently behind bars "deserve the same relief."

Cohen's letter referenced the efforts of reality television star Kim Kardashian in bringing Johnson's sentence to Trump's attention; Kardashian met with the president in May 2018 to discuss prison reform and the possibility of commutation for Johnson, a non-violent drug offender who had been sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole for her involvement in a drug trafficking scheme.

Trump Has Granted Three Commutations During His Term

After serving 21 years of her sentence, Trump granted Johnson's petition for clemency on June 6, which marked the first of three such commutations since he took office.

"Thousands serving time for non-violent drug offenses don't have Kim Kardashian to plead their cases for clemency but are just as deserving of the relief," wrote Cohen. "These non-violent drug offenders should be released based on their records, not on celebrity endorsements."

Cohen also noted that Trump's predecessor, President Barack Obama, had established a clemency initiative in his second term in office that ultimately resulted in the commutation of more than 1,700 federal inmates, the majority of which had been convicted of non-violent drug offenses, according to Marijuana Moment.

"Justice delayed is justice denied," Cohen wrote in the conclusion of his letter. "Please do the right thing."

Cohen's letter to the president comes on the heels of an announcement by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), who on June 20 detailed his "Restorative Justice Initiative" as part of his campaign for president.

Cory Booker Makes Campaign Promise To Non-Violent Offenders

As Marijuana Moment noted, Booker announced that if elected, he would grant clemency to an estimated 17,000 federal prisoners serving sentences for non-violent drug offenses. Approximately half of those individuals would have marijuana-related convictions.

"Granting clemency won't repair all the damage that has been done by the War on Drugs and our broken criminal justice system, but it will help our country confront this injustice and begin to heal," he wrote. 

Fellow Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar has also made clemency part of her campaign, and has suggested the establishment of a bipartisan clemency board to review and recommend non-violent cases to the president in a more expedient fashion. 

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.