Obama grants clemency to just 8 federal prisoners

6  crack and 2 meth offenders released
2,000+ non-violent drug lifers ignored

President Obama continued the sad practice of being stingy with clemency. On Wednesday, the president commuted the sentences of only 8 federal inmates — or 0.000037% of 212,283 federal prisoners — in the traditional pre-Christmas clemency grants.

No marijuana, powder cocaine or LSD offenders had sentences shortened.  Only four of the nation’s 2,100 non-violent lifers (drugs) in federal prison had their sentences commuted — or 0.0019% of this population.

The lucky few are:

Sidney E. Johnson Jr., 53, of Mobile, Alabama, sentenced in 1994 to life in prison for crack cocaine.
  • Cathy Lee Jones , 53, of Portsmouth, Virginia, sentenced in 2003 to 21 years for crack cocaine. Her release date was October 18, 2021.
  • Rickey M. McCall, 42, of Birmingham, Alabama, sentenced in 2001 to life for crack cocaine.
  • Larry Nailor, 48, of Memphis, Tennessee, sentenced in 1997 to life for crack cocaine.
  • Antonio G. Reeves, 41, of Kennett, Missouri, sentenced in 2004 to 15 years for crack cocaine. His release date was July 6, 2017.
  •  Israel Abel Torres, 38, of Dallas, Texas, sentenced in 1998 to life for crack cocaine and methamphetamine.
  • Jennifer Regenos, 36,  of Muscatine, Iowa, sentenced in 2002 to 20 years for methamphetamine. Her release date was January 22, 2019.
  • Barbara L. Scrivner, 48, of Portland, Oregon, sentenced in 1995 to 30 years for methamphetamine. Her release date was Match 17, 2019.

  • Johnson, Jones, McCall, Nailor and Reeves are black; Scrivner and Torres are white; Regenos is Native American. Five are men, three are women. Five had been sentenced for crack, two for meth, one for both.

    These eight drug offenders will not be freed until the spring or early summer of 2015, although most will leave prison soon for community halfway houses.

    No marijuana lifers had sentences shortened, not even the elderly men serving the 10 Most Outrageous Marijuana Sentences. 

    Clemency recipient Barbara Scrivner was ranked No. 8 on The Clemency Report’s  list of all prisoners deserving clemency and No. 7 on the list of women deserving freedom. She has been in prison for 22 years. Her daughter, Alannah, is now a mother herself, making Barbara a grandmother.

    We are overjoyed for Barbara, a wonderful person, and the other clemency recipients, all worthy.

    But finding only 0.000037% of federal inmates deserving of shortened sentences can only be described as disgraceful in an era of mass imprisonment.

    The modest management goal of 1% would have resulted in shortened sentences for at least 2,000 prisoners.

    Clemency Project 2014, announced in April, was supposed to be an expedited clemency review to commute the sentences of those serving longer than would be given under today’s laws. This program was supposed to be in addition to the normal clemency review process.

    By that measure, zero regulation clemencies were granted and only eight clemencies made their way through the “expedited” clemency process.

    Government productivity in action.

    The Justice Department’s partners in Clemency Project 2014 — the American Civil Liberties Union, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the American Bar Association, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and federal public defenders — have worked hard to deliver worthy candidates to the bureaucracy. And they dared not utter an unkind word about President Scrooge, lest the miserly clemency boss skimp even further on the Christmas gruel supply.

    But the sorry numbers of the holiday clemency grants can only be seen as a failure, perhaps not a permanent one but, at a minimum, a failure to feel the urgency that prisoners and their families feel as lives slip away serving pointlessly long sentences.

    A president and bureaucracy that can find only 8 clemency candidates for pre-Christmas compassion lacks both the heart and competence worthy of our forgiveness.

    Listen to the political bells rings in Deputy Attorney General James Cole’s statement on the clemency grants:

    “The president’s actions today in providing clemency to eight individuals who were sentenced under outdated and unfair laws sustains his commitment to bring fairness to our criminal justice system. While all eight were properly held accountable for their criminal actions, their punishments did not fit their crimes, and sentencing laws and policies have since been updated to ensure more fairness for low-level offenders.

    “All eight of these individuals meet the criteria I laid out under the President’s direction when I announced the Clemency Initiative in April: they are all non-violent, low-level offenders who have no significant criminal history nor ties to gangs or organized crime. All have served at least 10 years in prison with good conduct while incarcerated, and all would have gotten lesser sentences if convicted of the same crimes today.

    “As I have said many times, for our criminal justice system to be effective, it needs to not only be fair; but it also must be perceived as being fair. That’s why we created the Clemency Initiative – in the hope of promoting that fundamental American ideal, equal justice under the law. The Justice Department will continue to identify applicants whom we can recommend to the president for commutation.”

    That the Justice Department, which prosecutes these people, finds it hard to find any worthy of clemency is no surprise. Perhaps the function can be transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services.

    To help the Justice Department in its struggle to achieve justice, we provide some names and full color  pictures of those deserving immediate clemency.

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