President Obama Commutes 153 More Federal Sentences, Pardons 78

By Seth Ferranti 12/20/16

This latest push brings the president's commutation total to 1,176.

President Barack Obama

Outgoing President Barack Obama, with less than a month left in office, has used his presidential powers again to commute the sentences of 153 more non-violent offenders in the federal prison system who were serving disproportionate sentences due to our nation's inane War on Drugs.

With a total of 1,176 federal prison inmates being granted clemency under the Obama administration, the president has done it in record-breaking fashion as the days of his presidency come to a close. The president also pardoned 78 individuals—many of whom were drug offenders—forgiving them of their crimes.

But there are many more who have applied for a shorter sentence, and are still waiting on a decision.

With Obama leaving office, many have wondered what will happen to the remaining non-violent offenders who deserve clemency. As recently as Nov. 30, the Office of the Pardon Attorney reported that there were still 1,937 requests for a pardon and 13,042 requests for commutation still pending—the majority of which were not addressed with this newest wave of clemency grants. For some drug war prisoners seeking relief from unjust sentences, time has seemingly run out. 

“We need the President to pick up the pace of commutations before he leaves office," Michael Collins of the Drug Policy Alliance told USA Today. “He is to be applauded for his actions thus far, but we know that the next occupant of the White House is unsympathetic to the cause of mass incarceration, and to the plight of those serving unjust sentences in federal prison.”

In an August Facebook post, Obama wrote about the importance of righting the wrongs of the drug war. "The more we understand the human stories behind this problem, the sooner we can start making real changes that keep our streets safe, break the cycle of incarceration in this country, and save taxpayers like you money,” he wrote.

No one can argue against Obama’s extensive record of granting clemencies, although President-elect Trump's nominee for attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), has leveled criticisms in the past.

"The president is playing a dangerous game to advance his political ideology," Sessions said when the president granted a single-day record of 214 commutations in August.

Despite his detractors, Obama has continued to do the right thing, though many in the entertainment industry, like John Legend, have urged Obama to make a greater effort to "bring justice to the thousands of families of non-violent drug offenders who have waited far too long for Congress to act," once and for all.

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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 You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.