Why Did 95 Federal Inmates Get Clemency, And Thousands Did Not?


Last week, President Obama commuted the sentences of 95 federal prisoners, but not for Weldon Angelos and thousands of others who had applied. “I felt sick,” said Angelos, 36, who is serving a 55-year sentence for selling about $1,000 worth of marijuana. “It was devastating.” The Washington Post says that for those who didn’t make the cut, the exclusion was a hard blow. “It was a great day for those who won the lottery and one more disappointment for everyone in the pipeline who should be on the list,” said Amy Povah, a former inmate and the founder of the Can-Do Foundation, a clemency advocacy group.

Mark Holden, general counsel and senior vice president of Koch Industries, said the failure to commute Angelos's sentence was “disappointing and devastating for Weldon and his family.” He added, “Think of anything in your life that you've waited for. Everything else pales in comparison to this.” It is unclear why Angelos failed to get clemency. A Justice Department spokeswoman said that officials do not discuss individual clemency petitions. Another official noted that the department is processing them “as thoroughly and expeditiously as we can.” Obama's Justice Department set out eight specific clemency criteria, including having served at least 10 years, having no significant criminal history prior to conviction and demonstrating good behavior in prison. And he raised the hopes of thousands who believed they could qualify. “What the president announced was a categorical grant to people who met those eight criteria,” said law Prof. Mark Osler of the Universityu of St. Thomas in Minnesota. “If it's a categorical grant, we should be seeing consistency.”

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