A coalition of criminal-justice-reform advocates has asked President Obama to expand the number of inmates eligible for clemency by granting commutations to broad categories of nonviolent offenders, the Washington Post reports. Inmates who meet certain criteria file individual clemency petitions that are reviewed by several layers of officials at the Justice Department and the White House. The coalition, which includes former judges and prosecutors as well as groups like the NAACP and the Sentencing Project, is asking Obama instead to “grant sweeping commutations” to large groups of inmates, possibly without the individual review of each petition.
“With the stroke of your pen, you could change the lives of thousands of individuals and their families and write a legacy that will stand throughout history,” the coalition wrote the President yesterday. “We do not know whether the next president will support clemency efforts or criminal justice reform. But we do know that until January 20, you alone have the power to deliver both mercy and justice to those who deserve it.” Under a two-year-old clemency initiative, Obama has granted a historic number of commutations — more than 1,000 — to federal drug offenders who were imprisoned over the past several decades under harsh sentencing laws. Of those inmates, 342 were serving life sentences for their offenses. President-elect Donald Trump has called for more “law and order” measures and criticized Obama’s clemency initiative. The coalition of more than 50 advocates praised Obama but urged him to move quickly in his remaining weeks and grant relief to thousands of other drug offenders behind bars.