(CNSNews.com) –The White House announced today that President Barack Obama is commuting the sentences of an additinal 61 criminals and that he has now commuted the sentences of more prisoners thatn all of the last six presidents combiend.
“We’re all imperfect. We all make mistakes,” Obama said.
“To date, the President has now commuted the sentences of 248 individuals – more than the previous six Presidents combined,” said a statement by the White House. The total includes 92 prisoners who were serving life sentences.
“Throughout the remainder of his time in office, the President is committed to continuing to issue more grants of clemency as well as to strengthening rehabilitation programs" during his last few months in office, the White House added.
“As he wrote in a letter to the 61 individuals receiving clemency today:
"‘The power to grant pardons and commutations… embodies the basic belief in our democracy that people deserve a second chance after having made a mistake in their lives that led to a conviction under our laws'."
The White House will also hold a briefing on Thursday entitled Life After Clemency, which will bring together “advocates, academics, and Administration officials to discuss and share ideas on the President’s clemency initiative and ways to improve paths to reentry… after years behind bars."
But the White House statement made it clear that Obama considers commutations just the first step in a major rehaul of the criminal justice system, including mandatory sentencing guidelines.
“Clemency of individual cases alone cannot fix decades of overly punitive sentencing policies,” it said.
“So while we continue to work to resolve as many clemency applications as possible – and make no mistake, we are working hard at this – only broader criminal justice reform can truly bring justice to the many thousands of people behind bars serving unduly harsh and outdated sentences.”
In December, Obama commuted the sentences of 95 prisoners, most of whom were nonviolent drug offenders, after the Justice Department expanded its criteria in an effort to encourage more prisoners to apply for clemency.
Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution states that the “President…shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.”
Although a commutation lessens the sentence already imposed, it does not affect the legal guilt of the individual, according to George Mason Professor of Public Policy James Pfiffner.