WASHINGTON ― President Barack Obama shortened sentences of 153 federal prisoners on Monday as part of a clemency push before he leaves office in a few weeks.
Obama has now commuted the sentences of 1,176 people during his presidency, and has pardoned 148. The announcement came as the president and his family were in Hawaii for a holiday vacation.
“The 231 individuals granted clemency today have all demonstrated that they are ready to make use — or have already made use — of a second chance,” White House counsel Neil Eggleston wrote in a blog post Monday. “While each clemency recipient’s story is unique, the common thread of rehabilitation underlies all of them. 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.”
Those whose sentences were commuted on Monday, granting them early release, were convicted on drug crimes. Some will be released in 2017 and 2018, while others will have to wait several years before their release date. Obama also granted pardons to 78 individuals on Monday.
Separately, the United States Sentencing Commission issued a report on Monday showing a 5 percent drop in the number of federal offenders sentenced in the 2016 fiscal year from the year earlier. There are currently about 190,000 federal inmates, the fewest since 2005.
One person granted a pardon was a former Pittsburgh city council member and Freedom Rider who sought clemency for a firearms conviction from 1970. Many of those granted pardons were convicted in the 1980s and ‘90s, and one case dated to 1964.
Another pardon was granted to a man found guilty of a firearms charge, who was a major in a sheriff’s office in Virginia that was caught up in a major Drug Enforcement Adminstration case. Another was granted to a man arrested in 1999 for working with his uncle and two others to steal and sell rare baseball cards from actor Charlie Sheen’s collection, on display at a restaurant in New York’s Times Square.
A woman Obama pardoned was also helped by President Bill Clinton, who commuted her sentence in 2000. She went to law school, but had to wait years before being admitted to the Georgia bar because of her conviction. She now works as a public defender.
Elise Foley contributed reporting.
This is a developing story and will be updated.