Trump’s 1st Term: Lowest Black Imprisonment Rate in 31 Years, Clemency Gives Inmates Second Chance

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 25: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) In this screenshot from the RNC’s livest
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President Donald Trump has made criminal justice reform a priority during his first administration and his efforts have paid off, from signing into law the First Step Act to help individuals successfully transition back into society, to the lowest rate of incarceration for blacks in 31 years, and on Wednesday he granted clemency to five non-violent inmates whom he believes deserve a second chance.

• Lenora Logan was sentenced to 27 years in prison for her involvement in a cocaine conspiracy. Aside from saving a prison nurse from being attacked by another inmate, during her time behind bars she served as a suicide watch companion, a nursing assistant for those in hospice care, and a leader of the praise and worship team.  

Logan wrote in a letter to President Trump:

Being a recovering addict of 23 years, I now have been on the other side of the spectrum. Now I see how devastating the lives of others are effected by the crime I committed. I am very remorseful for the part I played in the crime, and if I could do it all again I certainly would do things differently. I never would have sold or used drugs at all.

I ask for this chance to contribute with my experience to help others to learn from their mistakes, just as I have from my own mistakes. If given this opportunity it would not be taken lightly, nor in vain, but instead it would be used to give back to society, not only to save my children’s lives, but others from going down the same path I did.

• Rashella Reed was convicted of wire fraud and money laundering. While in prison, Reed used her teaching background to tutor inmates and facilitate children’s programs in the prison.

“She was serving 14 years in prison for her role in an $8 million food stamp scheme,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. “Now the former Atlanta Public Schools teacher is a free woman, thanks to President Donald Trump.”

• Charles Tanner was a young professional boxer who at 24 was sentenced to life in prison for a drug charge — his first criminal conviction. His sentence was later reduced to 30 years. Before his clemency, he served 16 years in prison.

“On Wednesday, President Donald Trump granted clemency to Tanner and four other people convicted of committing drug and financial crimes,” the NWI Times reported. “Tanner said he learned the news Wednesday morning, when he was called into the prison office.”

“They said, ‘Hey, you’re going home today,’” Tanner said. “President Trump signed clemency for you and you have to get out of here.’ I broke down praying right there in that office.”

• John Bolen was a small business owner who allowed his boat to be used to transport cocaine from the Bahamas to Florida. After a jury trial, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for his first conviction. Before his clemency, he served 13 years in prison. His wife, June Bolen, put a petition up on the website asking Trump to pardon him. “Please help me bring my high school sweetheart and soulmate home,” she wrote. Their son was eight years old when Bolen was sent to prison.

• Curtis McDonald, now 70, was convicted in 1996 for drug trafficking and money laundering.  After a jury trial, he was sentenced to life in prison.  He was a first-time offender who served nearly 24 years in prison. 

The Commercial Appeal reported on Trump granting McDonald clemency:

In 2018, President Trump granted clemency to Alice Marie Johnson, who was serving a life sentence for the minor role she played in a Houston-to-Memphis drug trafficking ring in the 1990s.

Yet Johnson didn’t rest after her release. She fought for the release of her co-defendant, Curtis McDonald, who was also serving a life sentence that could have easily turned into a death sentence after he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

So now, after months of advocating for McDonald, and after his family and other supporters marched for him in downtown Memphis on Juneteenth, Trump granted clemency to McDonald and four other inmates who turned their lives around while in prison.

The Associated Press reported on Trump’s latest clemencies:

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Wednesday in a statement that Trump was granting the clemencies “in light of the decisions these individuals have made following their convictions to improve their lives and the lives of others while incarcerated.”

The latest round of clemencies comes less than two weeks before Election Day and as Trump has been hammering Democrat Joe Biden over his tough-on-crime record during his time in the U.S. Senate. Biden, as head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, helped shepherd the 1994 crime bill that many criminal justice experts say contributed to harsh sentences and mass incarceration of black people.

Washington Examiner columnist Paul Bedard reported on the Department of Justice report on the drop in rates of incarceration:

America’s imprisonment rate has dropped to its lowest level since 1995, led by a dive in the percentage of blacks and Hispanics sent to jail during the Trump administration, according to a new Justice Department tally. For minorities, the focus of President Trump’s First Step Act prison and criminal reform plan, the rate is the lowest in years.

For blacks, the imprisonment rate in state and federal prisons is the lowest in 31 years, and for Hispanics, it is down 24%.

“Across the decade from 2009 to 2019, the imprisonment rate fell 29 percent among black residents, 24 percent among Hispanic residents and 12 percent among white residents. In 2019, the imprisonment rate of black residents was the lowest it has been in 30 years, since 1989,” said the report.

The report considers incarceration as individuals who spend more than one year in prison and it gave no specific reason for the rate drop.

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