Jacob Sullum on Obama’s Discovery of His Clemency Powers

As an
Illinois legislator, a U.S. senator, and a presidential candidate,
Barack Obama repeatedly criticized our criminal justice
system as excessively punitive. But after Obama was elected to the
White House in 2008, says Jacob Sullum, the man who worried about
nonviolent offenders serving outrageously long prison terms seemed
to disappear, replaced by a president with one of the
weakest clemency records in U.S. history. Once he had the
unilateral power to free people who do not belong in prison, Obama
showed almost no interest in exercising it, shortening just one
sentence during his first term. But judging from clemency
criteria unveiled by the Justice Department last week,
Sullum says, Obama plans to make up for lost time.

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