The maddening news is no surprise: President Obama has granted pardons (22) and commutations (1) at the lowest rate of any modern president.
He has given pardons to roughly 1 of every 50 individuals whose applications were processed by the Justice Department. At this point in his presidency, Ronald Reagan had pardoned 1 of every 3 such applicants. George H.W. Bush had pardoned 1 in 16. Bill Clinton had pardoned 1 in 8. George W. Bush had pardoned 1 in 33.To be fair, it's not entirely President Obama's fault:
To determine who receives clemency, Obama, like his predecessors, relies on recommendations from the Office of the Pardon Attorney, the arm of the Justice Department that reviews applications. The office — led by Pardon Attorney Ronald Rodgers, a former military judge and federal prosecutor — rarely dispenses endorsements, however.
Several administration officials who agreed to discuss pardons on the condition of anonymity said the president pardoned nearly every person recommended by Rodgers for approval in his first two years in office, but that such applicants were few and far between. While the number of applicants has increased in recent years, Obama — based on Rodgers' recommendations — is denying more people more swiftly than any of his recent predecessors, the data shows. ...
Currently, two government officials said, there are about a dozen positive recommendations and hundreds of negative ones waiting for the president to act on.We are simply flabbergasted that, of the thousands upon thousands of law-abiding ex-offenders and the 220,000 people currently in federal prisons (mostly for nonviolent drug, gun possession, and immigration offenses), there are only a dozen deemed worthy of a second chance.
At least one commutation request is pending. The White House also has asked for a fresh review of the case of Clarence Aaron, who is serving a triple life-sentence, without parole, for his role in a drug conspiracy. ProPublica and The Washington Post published a story about Aaron's case in May.
These numbers scream for reform. Whoever the next president is, he should launch a reform effort to ensure that pardon and commutation applicants get an unbiased, meaningful review of their requests, and he should use the pardon power early and often.
Regardless of who wins the election, President Obama still has ample time and opportunity to improve his clemency record. We hope he seizes it.