Outgoing President Barack Obama pardoned 78 convicts and commuted the sentences of another 153, many of whom were drug traffickers, in the largest number of clemencies granted by a president in one day on Monday.
Of the variety of crimes committed by the criminals receiving clemency, many are drug trafficking—manufacturing and selling illicit drugs including crack cocaine, heroin, and more. Thousands of dollars in fines owed were also excused.
The announcement came only days after the Center for Disease Control revealed deaths from legal and illegal opioid and prescription drug overdoses hit 33,091 in 2015, and deaths from illegal synthetic opioids spiked 72 percent in a single year.
“With today’s 153 commutations, the President has now commuted the sentences of 1,176 individuals, including 395 life sentences. The President also granted pardons to 78 individuals, bringing his total number of pardons to 148. Today’s acts of clemency — and the mercy the President has shown his 1,324 clemency recipients — exemplify his belief that America is a nation of second chances,” the White House boasts.
The White House does not explain why any of the 231 individuals who received clemency deserved a “second chance,” simply saying they had “led a productive and law-abiding post-conviction life,” or merely “made the most of his or her time in prison.”
Strangely, a Justice Department release listing the identities and charges of another 79 drug traffickers who received clemency on Nov. 22 appears to have been deleted without explanation. Breitbart News reported on the criminals set for early release at the time:
Because of Obama’s last-minute commutations, a former armed cocaine dealer will be back on Virginia’s streets in March. So will a convicted armed Philadelphia crack cocaine dealer, and a jailed armed California meth dealer. Another former armed Texas drug trafficker sentenced to life in prison had his sentence commuted to 38.75 years. An armed Florida cocaine dealer had his life sentence reduced to 25 years.
All told, 21 prisoners with gun-related charges, many of whom were also drug traffickers, just received reduced sentences from Obama.
One convicted heroin dealer, arrested for trying to sell more than 2.2 pounds of heroin, had his already reduced, 20-year sentence cut to a mere four months, and also was excused from paying a $10,000 fine. A woman convicted for conspiring to traffic over 1,000 kilograms (2,204 pounds) of marijuana, plus 11 pounds of powder cocaine, also had her unpaid $10,000 fine remitted. Another crack cocaine dealer also got a free pass on an unpaid $7,500 fine.
Earlier this year, Obama also commuted the sentence of a previously-convicted drug trafficker sentenced for his mother-in-law’s shooting death. Instead of serving a life sentence, Sherman Ray Meirovitz will be freed in June.
According to one Republican senator, the Obama administration is on track to release up to 70,000 federal prisoners thanks in part to changes in sentencing guidelines — nearly one-third of all federal inmates.