WASHINGTON ― A group of former federal prisoners who had their sentences commuted by President Barack Obama are urging the president to do as much as he can for other drug defendants before the end of his presidency.
The initiative #cut50, which aims to reduce the U.S. prison population by 50 percent, held several events last week in support of its #ClemencyNOW campaign, which seeks to encourage Obama to grant an “unprecedented” number of clemencies before President-elect Donald Trump take office in January. The group held a vigil in front of the White House and delivered petitions to the Justice Department in support of the initiative.
Obama has granted clemency to 944 individuals during his presidency, including 324 people who had been sentenced to life in federal prison. While Obama’s clemency numbers are unprecedented in modern history, advocates had expected thousands of federal prisoners to be granted early freedom under the clemency initiative the Justice Department announced in April 2014. The White House has focused on granting clemency to drug offenders who were sentenced under previous guidelines and would have likely received a lesser sentence if convicted today.
In the video above, The Huffington Post interviewed Sharanda Jones, Kenneth Kemp and Jason Hernandez. All three were sentenced to life in federal prison, but had their sentences commuted by the president. They spoke about the message they want Obama to hear now.
“Whoever is in there come Jan. 20, if they’re still in there, they haven’t received clemency, they’re probably going to die in there. You’re their last hope,” Hernandez said.
Below, watch an interview with Hernandez and Brittany Byrd, the campaign director for #ClemencyNOW who has worked with several clients seeking clemency.