The White House announced Wednesday President Obama has commuted 214 criminal sentences, the most of any day in history since 1900. Sixty-seven of the individuals who were granted clemency were serving life sentences. In total President Obama has granted clemency to 562 people, more than any other president in modern history.
"Today began like any other for 214 federal inmates across the country, but ultimately became a day I am confident they will never forget. This morning, these individuals received a message from the President: your application for clemency has been granted," Neil Eggleston is White House Counsel Neil Eggleston released on the White House website. "This news likely carries special weight to the 67 individuals serving life sentences – almost all for nonviolent drug crimes – who, up until today, could only imagine what it might be like to once again attend a loved one’s birthday party, walk their child to school, or simply go to the grocery store. All of the individuals receiving commutation today, incarcerated under outdated and unduly harsh sentencing laws, embody the President’s belief that 'America is a nation of second chances.'"
The White House is arguing these individuals were granted clemency for "non-violent" drug offenses, however it is important to point out a number of individuals were also serving time for violating federal firearms laws.
Earlier this year, President Obama granted clemency to 61 individuals. Twelve of them were serving time for the illegal use of a firearm during the commission of a drug trafficking crime.
Bernard Beard of Compton, Calif. Beard was convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, cocaine base, heroin and phencyclidine. He also served a sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.
Or how about Ian Kavanaugh Gavin of Eight Mile, Ala., who was serving federal time for using and carrying a firearm in furtherance of his possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute?
Ernest Spiller of East St. Louis, Ill., was convicted of running a crack house in a local neighborhood, distributing crack cocaine on more than one occasion, and of possessing a firearm as a felon to carry out his drug trafficking crimes.
“As the only elected law enforcement officials in America, we are greatly concerned about the direct negative impact our President’s decision to commute the sentences of armed criminals,” the Major County Sheriff’s Association, which is made up of a elected sheriffs representing over 100 million Americans around the country, wrote in a statement about the president’s actions. “These individuals are not low level non-violent drug offenders as the Administration would have the public believe — they are violent criminals who are being released back into our neighborhoods.”