President Obama has received more petitions for pardons and shorter prison sentences than previous presidents at this point in office, and he hasn’t approved a single one, reports USA Today. Obama has logged 2,361 clemency petitions. He also faces a backlog of 2,173 old requests, a legacy of a system that civil rights groups and conservative jurists say has fallen into disuse.
Not since Gerald Ford, who approved more than 150 clemency petitions in his first year, has a president granted mercy more than 10 times early in his tenure. George W. Bush and Bill Clinton each waited about two years to approve a pardon or shorten a prison sentence. “The incredibly pernicious political atmosphere makes it difficult for even a president who wanted to use the power,” says law Prof. Daniel Kobil of Capital University in Columbus, Oh. When Obama vowed to reverse cocaine sentencing rules, prisoner advocates hoped he also would curb long-term sentences. Instead, “he has been one of the slowest-acting presidents in history,” says Jay Rorty of the American Civil Liberties Union.