President Obama granted 78 pardons and 153 commutations yesterday, a single-day record for the use of presidential clemency power as he engages in an historic end-of-term clemency surge, USA Today reports. With just 32 days left in office, Obama more than doubled the number of pardons he granted in the previous seven years. He continued a vigorous use of a lesser form of his clemency power, having now commuted the sentences of 1,176 federal prison inmates, mostly for long, mandatory-minimum drug sentences imposed during a war on drugs waged over three decades.
Time is running out for Obama to address the backlog of clemency cases at the Office of the Pardon Attorney. As of Nov. 30, there were 1,937 pardon petitions and 13,042 applications for a commutation of sentence pending. “We need the president to pick up the pace of commutations before he leaves office,” said Michael Collins of the Drug Policy Alliance. “He is to be applauded for his actions thus far, but we know that the next occupant of the White House is unsympathetic to the cause of mass incarceration, and to the plight of those serving unjust sentences in federal prison.”