Joe Biden Issues First Pardons And Prison Commutations Of Presidency

The 1986 Biden law resulted in a life sentence for Alice Johnson, a prominent former prisoner, and advocate who was released from prison by Trump at Kim Kardashian's request.

Joe Biden Issues First Pardons And Prison Commutations Of Presidency - SurgeZirc US
Joe Biden Issues First Pardons And Prison Commutations Of Presidency.

President Joe Biden granted clemency for the first time since taking office on Tuesday, issuing three pardons and commuting 75 prison sentences. People convicted of federal drug offenses received all of the commutations and two of the three pardons.

“Today, I am pardoning three people who have demonstrated their commitment to rehabilitation and are striving every day to give back and contribute to their communities,” Biden said in a statement.

“I am also commuting the sentences of 75 people who are serving long sentences for non-violent drug offenses, many of whom have been serving on home confinement during the COVID-pandemic and many of whom would have received a lower sentence if they were charged with the same offense today, thanks to the bipartisan First Step Act.”

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Abraham Bolden, 87, was sentenced to six years in prison for bribery in 1964 and was pardoned by Biden. He was the first African-American to be assigned to a presidential protective detail.

Biden also granted pardons to Houston resident Betty Jo Bogans, 51, who was sentenced to seven years in prison in 1998 for possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine, and Georgia resident Dexter Jackson, 52, who pleaded guilty in 2002 to allowing marijuana dealers to use his property. Jackson owns a phone repair business.

Fifty-eight of the 75 sentence commutations are set to go into effect in 2023, with the majority of those who receive them technically under house arrest until then.

Joe Biden Issues First Pardons And Prison Commutations Of Presidency - SurgeZirc US
Joe Biden pardoned former Secret Service agent Abraham Bolden, who was sentenced to six years in prison in 1964 for bribery.

According to a White House official, the decision to postpone the effective date in many cases was consistent with the practice of previous administrations. He went on to say that “these grants, which reduce the sentences of nonviolent drug offenders, will have a significant impact on the individuals’ lives.”

“President Biden has issued more sentence commutations at this early point in his presidency than any of his last five predecessors at the same point in their first terms,” the official said.

“President Biden has moved quickly in order to express his deep commitment to reform our justice system, address racial disparities, and provide second chances to individuals who are working hard to turn their lives around.

“At the same time, this is just the first tranche. The President and his team will continue reviewing petitions from non-violent drug offenders for additional grants of clemency.”

Joe Biden Issues First Pardons And Prison Commutations Of Presidency - SurgeZirc US
There are roughly 2,700 federal inmates incarcerated for marijuana.

Joe Biden is responsible for some of the country’s harshest drug laws, but he has shifted his position ahead of the 2020 presidential campaign to support criminal justice reform. He even stated that he wanted to release “everyone” who was imprisoned for marijuana possession.

Only five people who have been imprisoned solely for marijuana-related offenses have had their sentences commuted, and some of them will spend more time in prison.

According to a White House fact sheet, Jose Colunga of Nebraska, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for marijuana dealing in 2010, will now be released in October 2023, rather than the estimated 2027 release date. Fermin Serna, a Texas resident who received a 20-year sentence, will be released in August 2022, rather than in 2030.

Stacie Demers of Constable, New York, and Carry Le of Georgia, both of whom received 10-year pot sentences in 2016, will be placed on house arrest for a year, as will Quang Nguyen of Houston, who received a 10-year pot sentence in 2017.

There are approximately 2,700 federal marijuana inmates, and many high-profile cases were not included. It was unclear what role outside lobbying played in the clemency grants at the time.

On a Monday evening call, an administration official told reporters that “the Department of Justice makes recommendations to the president, and the president considers those recommendations,” a departure from the Trump era, when clemency advocacy groups and influential people routinely won over the president.

Joe Biden Issues First Pardons And Prison Commutations Of Presidency - SurgeZirc US
Donald Trump released two prisoners serving life without parole for marijuana under a three-strikes policy expanded by Biden on his last day in office.

The official said Biden “understands that too many people are serving very long sentences for nonviolent drug crimes and so he’s using his clemency power as a way to try and address that.”

In the 1980s and 1990s, Biden advocated for and wrote extremely harsh drug-crime sentences. He advocated for a 100:1 sentencing disparity between crack cocaine, which was more commonly used by blacks, and powder cocaine, which has since been repealed.

In addition, Biden’s 1994 legislation included $12.5 billion in grants to encourage states to enact “truth in sentencing” laws that required inmates to serve the majority of their sentences.

Many drug dealers were also sentenced to life in prison under the three-strikes policy expanded by Biden’s 1994 crime bill. On his final day in office, former President Donald Trump released two marijuana-related prisoners serving life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Joe Biden Issues First Pardons And Prison Commutations Of Presidency - SurgeZirc US
Joe Biden’s 1994 law gave drug dealers federal life sentences under the three-strikes policy.

Whether Biden’s 1994 law contributed to the “mass incarceration” of minorities, including increasing the black prison population, was a contentious issue during the 2020 election.

New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice found the law “helped fuel a prison construction boom” and that “while some states had already started to enact tougher sentencing laws, the legislation rewarded states for those decisions, providing powerful incentives for others to adopt them.”

In the United States, the total number of prisoners increased from less than 1.6 million in 1995 to more than 2 million in 2002.

In a fiery Senate speech, Biden said in 1994, “Every time Richard Nixon, when he was running in 1972, would say, ‘Law and order,’ the Democratic match or response was, ‘Law and order with justice’ — whatever that meant. And I would say, ‘Lock the S.O.B.s up.’”

Joe Biden Issues First Pardons And Prison Commutations Of Presidency - SurgeZirc US
Cornel West said Biden is responsible for mass incarceration as a result of his 1994 crime law.

During the presidential campaign, even some Joe Biden supporters criticized his record.

Left-wing activist and philosopher Cornel West, who begrudgingly supported Biden in 2020, said in an interview, “When [Biden] says [the 1994 law] didn’t contribute to mass incarceration, I tell him he has to get off his symbolic crack pipe.”

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Radio host Charlamange Tha God recounted during a TV interview, “When [Biden] was on the Breakfast Club, another part of that interview that people miss is that I asked him about the ’94 crime bill, and the ’94 crime bill being the catalyst for mass incarceration in this country. And he said it wasn’t the crime bill, it was the ’86 mandatory minimum sentencing. But I’m like, ‘Joe, you wrote that too.’”

Joe Biden Issues First Pardons And Prison Commutations Of Presidency - SurgeZirc US
Alice Johnson was sentenced to life in prison until Trump commuted her sentence.

The 1986 Biden law resulted in a life sentence for Alice Johnson, a prominent former prisoner, and advocate who was released from prison by Trump at Kim Kardashian’s request.

During the 2020 election, Trump attempted to gain support from black voters by campaigning on his First Step Act, which curtailed some of Biden’s policies, such as lowering the penalty for a third strike to 25 years in prison.

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