Obama Accelerates Clemency Push

By Seth Ferranti 11/08/16

Obama has commuted nearly 1,000 sentences during his presidential term.

Obama Accelerates Clemency Push

Staying true to his word and doing what he can to right the wrongs of the War on Drugs, President Obama once again used his presidential powers and prerogative to grant clemency to 72 more drug war prisoners last Friday

The running total of prison sentences President Obama has commuted so far during his term is now 944. With 760 sentences commuted in the last year alone, Obama is setting a new standard for acts of compassion and forgiveness by a sitting president.

“What President Obama has done for commutations is unprecedented in the modern era,” White House counsel Neil Eggleston wrote in a blog post. “The president is committed to reinvigorating the clemency authority, demonstrating that our nation is a nation of second chances, where mistakes from the past will not deprive deserving individuals of the opportunity to rejoin society and contribute to their families and communities.”

Since the re-launch of the War on Drugs in the 1980s, courtesy of the Reagan administration, "soft-on-crime" policies haven't been the most popular. In this age of mass incarceration, giving second chances to those convicted of drug war crimes has been viewed as career suicide by our elected officials. But President Obama has stood up for what he believes in. Hopefully his replacement in the White House will continue his efforts.

“The president has been clear that his goal is to commute the sentences of those who have truly rehabilitated themselves and do not have a propensity for violence,” said a White House official, according to The Hill, indicating that Obama differentiates between violent and non-violent offenders.

Facing claims from Republican stalwarts who say Obama is releasing violent and dangerous criminals, the president has stood resolute in his actions.

“These are not people picked up for smoking pot on a street corner,” Thomas Fitton, president of conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, told The Hill last week. “These are key figures in major drug operations.” But Fitton has it wrong. The beneficiaries of these commutations from Obama are for the majority low-level, non-violent offenders like Timothy Tyler, a Deadhead who was serving life for LSD, who was pardoned by the president in August. 

With hip-hop superstars like Jay Z and T.I. denouncing the racist and punitive War on Drugs, the relief Obama is granting these individuals is not only necessary, but the right thing to do. Our system of mass incarceration has been built up one person at time, and now the president is attempting to undo the damage—one individual at a time. 

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After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at sethferranti.com. You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.