Two articles today respond to yesterday's appalling revelations about how the Office of the Pardon Attorney (OPA) is failing the president, the public, and federal prisoners seeking sentence commutations:
- Debra Saunders calls on President Obama to pardon Clarence Aaron and echoes FAMM President Julie Stewart's concern: "The Pardon Attorney's office is not a gatekeeper but a brick wall."
- Reason calls it like it is: "Aaron, who has been a model prisoner for more than 18 years, probably would be a free man today if the Justice Department's pardon attorney, Ronald Rodgers, had not misrepresented important aspects of his petition."
More from the Reason story:
Both Rogers and the Justice Department declined Linzer's requests to comment on the case. Linzer, who previously has shown that black offenders such as Aaron are much less likely to receive pardons (which clear the records of people who have completed their sentences) than whites, presents the case as another example of dysfunction in the Office of the Pardon Attorney, on which Bush and Obama both have depended to review clemency petitions and recommend responses. Citing "a former pardon office lawyer," she suggests the office has responded to commutation petition backlogs, which are largely a product of increasingly draconian prison sentences, with cursory reviews and mass denial recommendations. In other words, at the very time when presidential mercy is most needed, it is less likely to be shown, and there is little rhyme or reason to which applicants are lucky enough to receive it.The Department of Justice's silence in the face of these grave accusations is unreasonable and unacceptable. These officials are playing with people's lives -- what else is a life composed of but days and years? -- when they cursorily deny clemency to virtually everyone and misrepresent their stories to the president.
The Justice Department owes an explanation -- and reform -- to Clarence Aaron, his family, and the taxpayers who are footing the bill for this inept system.