Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Where's the Clemency, Mr. President?

According to clemency blogger extraordinaire P.S. Ruckman, President Obama’s gone more than 475 days without granting a single presidential pardon or commutation of sentence. 

484 days as of today, by our count.

To mourn President Obama’s neglect, we’ve created a “Clemency Counter” in the left column of this blog. As long as nothing is happening, we might as well keep track of how long it’s taking.

Of course, we’re just plain upset about the lack of clemencies from this administration. From the beginning, Team Obama has made good statements about changing discriminatory crack laws, focusing more resources on drug treatment, and making sure sentencing laws aren’t too rigid.

But how about some clemencies while we’re waiting for those good things to happen? While the clemency clock is ticking, prisoners who’ve turned their lives around are waiting for a second chance.

And boy, do they wait. We’ve heard horror stories about prisoners waiting anywhere from two to 8 years to get an answer from the Office of the Pardon Attorney, which handles clemency requests. That office has a small staff and gets thousands of applications a year. But no clemencies emerge. The problem can’t be a lack of horribly unjust sentences, because we keep hearing about new ones all the time.

If President Obama does decide he wants to let some deserving folks out of the slammer a few years early, he may have to do a little White House home improvement over at the Pardon Attorney’s office first.