Obama planning expansion of clemency for “thousands” of non-violent offenders

posted at 2:01 pm on April 22, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

For all of the justified concern over abuse of executive authority by Barack Obama, especially as it relates to ObamaCare, this administration has proven as reluctant as its closest predecessors in using one truly unilateral power: clemency. In five-plus years, Obama has only issued 61 clemency actions — 52 pardons and 9 commutations — while denying over 8,000 petitions. His one-per-month rate comes to half the pace of George W. Bush, and far below the scale of the two 20th-century Presidents who flexed their muscles the most on clemency actions, FDR (3,687 in eleven-plus years) and LBJ (1,186 in sixty-two months, where Obama is at now).

Just last week, Reason’s Jacob Sullum noted that Obama still hadn’t reached Nixonian levels of mercy, at least on commutations:

Still, there is no reason why Obama should be so stingy with commutations, which he so far has issued at a slower rate than all but three other modern presidents: George W. Bush (11 commutations in 96 months), George H.W. Bush (three in 48 months), and Ronald Reagan (13 in 96 months). Obama has now issued 10 commutations in 64 months, which by that measure makes him about 26 percent more merciful than Bush II, 46 percent more merciful than Bush I, and 14 percent more merciful than Reagan. (Obama still lags all three on pardons, which clear people’s records, typically after they have completed their sentences.) But surely a man who has repeatedly criticized excessively long prison sentences should aspire to do more than surpass these truly awfulcommutation records. Obama is still a long way from Nixonian levels of mercy, since Tricky Dick shortened 60 sentences in 67 years—a rate 83 percent higher than Obama’s.

A few months ago, Deputy Attorney General James Cole indicated that Obama planned to pick up the pace, which was encouraging. Not so encouraging: Cole, whose department had at that point received about 9,000 commutation petitions since Obama took office, asked for help in finding worthy applicants, which suggested the government’s lawyers are either lazy or extremely picky. Cantu’s case seems to fit the latter theory. The New York Times reports that “a Justice Department official said the case was so clearly unjust, it moved through the process at unusual speed and was sent less than a month ago to the White House, where Ms. Ruemmler recommended that Mr. Obama approve it.”

By the president’s own account, there are thousands of other clear injustices that he has the power to remedy. He could start with all of the crack offenders sentenced under pre-2010 rules that almost everyone now agrees were unreasonably harsh. The Smarter Sentencing Act would make the shorter crack sentences enacted in 2010 retroactive. But if Congress fails to approve that bill, Obama still has the authority to act on his own, which would be consistent with the statements he and his underlings have made regarding our excessively punitive criminal justice system.

Sullum may get his wish. Yahoo’s Liz Goodwin reported yesterday that the White House plans a major revamp of their clemency process, focusing on non-violent drug offenders with inordinately harsh federal sentences for either pardons or commutations. She focuses on the case of Barbara Scrivner, serving a 30-year sentence for participating in a meth ring run by her then-husband, as an example:

Thousands and thousands of people like Scrivner are serving punishingly long sentences in federal prison based on draconian policies that were a relic of the “tough on crime” antidrug laws of the ’80s and ’90s. Thirty years after skyrocketing urban violence and drug use sparked politicians to impose longer and longer sentences for drug crimes, America now incarcerates a higher rate of its population than any other country in the world. This dubious record has finally provoked a bipartisan backlash against such stiff penalties. The old laws are slowly being repealed.

Now, in his final years in office, Obama has trained his sights on prisoners like Scrivner, and wants to use his previously dormant pardon power as part of a larger strategy to restore fairness to the criminal-justice system. A senior administration official tells Yahoo News the president could grant clemency to “hundreds, perhaps thousands” of people locked up for nonviolent drug crimes by the time he leaves office …

The scope of the new clemency initiative is so large that administration officials are preparing a series of personnel and process changes to help them manage the influx of petitions they expect Obama to approve.  Among the changes is reforming the recently censured office within the Justice Department responsible for processing pardon petitions. Yahoo News has learned that the pardon attorney, Ronald Rodgers, who was criticized in a 2012 Internal watchdog report for mishandling a high-profile clemency petition, is likely to step down as part of that overhaul. Additional procedures for handling large numbers of clemency petitions could be announced as soon as this week, a senior administration official said, though it could take longer.

In my column for The Week, I argue that this is long overdue, and that politics have interfered with a necessary mechanism for correcting injustices in sentencing and excessive prosecution:

This is long overdue. Congress passed mandatory-minimum sentencing over justified dissatisfaction with the judiciary for being too lenient. The problem, though, is that even the good intentions of these laws lead to obvious cases of injustice. Goodwin highlights one such case, that of Barbara Scrivner, who got 30 years without parole for taking part in a meth ring. Despite playing a minor role — her husband masterminded the ring — the judge had no choice but to hand down the 30-year sentence. That specific mandatory-minimum requirement has since been repealed, and prosecutors tell Goodwin that Scrivner probably wouldn’t have gotten a 20-year sentence today — which is how long she’s already served.

The near-absolute power of the pardon was meant for cases like Scrivner, and others trapped by excessive prosecution or sentencing. People who commit serious crimes should expect serious consequences, but justice requires that the punishment fit the crime. No system of justice is perfect, of course. When the judicial process fails to deliver a just outcome, governors and presidents should exercise their authority to correct the excesses, while employing a competent screening process to assure that cases of true injustice receive clemency, rather than those that are mere favors for those with political connections.

Not everyone agrees, however. Our friend Andy McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, believes that the reported scope of the effort amounts to an end run around Congress:

The pardon power exists so that the president can act in individual cases to correct excesses and injustices. It is not supposed to be a vehicle by which presidents rewrite congressional statutes that they disagree with philosophically (just as “prosecutorial discretion,” another doctrine the Obama administration has abused, is not supposed to be a vehicle by which the president substitutes his policies for duly enacted federal law).

The Obama administration is philosophically opposed to mandatory minimums in the federal penal law, especially in the narcotics area. The Justice Department is filled with racialist ideologues and pro-criminal rights ideologues (they tend to be the same people) who have long contended that the drug laws are racist. This is another of those absurd arguments that finds racism based on unintended consequences rather than racist designs. …

Moreover, we should be under no illusion: this is not an exercise in mitigating injustice in individual cases. This is an abuse of political power to rewrite the federal drug laws because, as a matter of ideology, Obama does not agree with stern sentences for drug offenders.

Obviously, I disagree, although McCarthy makes good points too. The power of pardons or commutations also exist to correct oversentencing in cases where sentencing requirements were irrationally applied. Scrivner got 30 years despite not being convicted of a violent crime, which she must serve in full before release. Violent criminals get far less, and in Scrivner’s case the judge not only lamented the mandatory sentence, prosecutors today wouldn’t be able to get it — because Congress did repeal the mandatory sentence for the crime for which she got convicted. Did that punishment fit the crime?

For those of us concerned about excessive government power, especially in terms of oversentencing and overprosecution, the executive power of clemency provides a check on those abuses — and one that carries substantial political accountability to boot. As Doug Mataconis also notes, that accountability is why the practice has declined dramatically since LBJ:

There is, of course, nothing that limits the Presidential power to grant pardons and clemency to individual cases as McCarthy suggests. Indeed, this is one of the few areas in which the President’s power is unchecked by any branch of government. Once a President issues a pardon or grants clemency, there is absolutely nothing that the Courts or Congress can do about the matter. Granted, there have been plenty of situations in which individual pardon decisions have carried a political cost, which is one of the reasons why the number of pardons that Presidents have issued has dropped steadily since the Nixon Administration. However, that is an entirely different issue from the question of whether or not the President has acted within his authority when granting pardon or clemency requests. In the end, that is an irrelevant question largely because there are no limits on the power at all.

As for the rest of McCarthy’s argument, you can expect that this will be the standard conservative response to this announcement. Rather than recognizing the fact that the President is right about the terrible impact that things like disparate sentencing for crack cocaine and mandatory minimums have had on the lives of real people, they will make the false argument that President is “making an end run” around Congress. In reality, what’s happening here is that the President is authorizing the power that the Constitution has granted him to right a terrible wrong and to bring this issue to the forefront of public attention. Maybe when that happens, the Republicans in Congress will finally act on this issue rather than using it as another weapon in the never ending partisan attacks on the President.

The power of Congress mainly relates to checks on power going forward. To rectify injustices of the past — to the extent they exist — the executive branch not only has the authority to act but the duty to do so as well.


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Hundreds, or thousands, of meth cookers, back on the streets. What could go wrong?

Ward Cleaver on April 22, 2014 at 2:04 PM

More voters for Obama and his ilk.

rplat on April 22, 2014 at 2:05 PM

Leftism thrives on lawlessness. Leftism cannot long endure unless criminals of every stripe own the streets. It’s a sure-fire way of getting a terrorized populace to cry “DO SOMETHING!” And, of course, the only ones who can DO SOMETHING! are the government ruling class.

CurtZHP on April 22, 2014 at 2:06 PM

obama needs illegitimate voters for 2014 and 2016.

Holder is obama’s capo.

The two are criminals and s/b in jail.

Schadenfreude on April 22, 2014 at 2:06 PM

I have no issue with this at all…especially in cases like the Scrivner’s. Mandatory minimums are right up there with zero tolerance rules for me. A decent idea in theory, but in practice they end up doing more harm than good.

The 3 strikes rule in California was God awful. And while not a fan of legalizing all drugs, there’s no way you’ll ever get me to agree that someone should get more for personal use possession than a criminal gets for a violent act.

nextgen_repub on April 22, 2014 at 2:07 PM

I understand that crimes that used to carry twenty year sentences now are 15 months probation. It is probably a good idea to pardon someone who’s served ten years for the same crime someone is serving probation only for now. I loath Obama and most of the things that he does with his power. However, as long as each case is somewhat evaluated, this seems like a fair way to treat non-violent criminals.

cajunpatriot on April 22, 2014 at 2:09 PM

There’s little political upside for Obama in issuing pardons. Any particular pardon only makes it a news issue, and somebody will disagree with it. Unless it’s already a news item, or so clearly an injustice that few will disagree, will a shallow man like Obama bother doing anything.

Fenris on April 22, 2014 at 2:09 PM

Bad president, good idea – assuming his pardons will be colorblind. In reality, I wouldn’t count on it.

Rix on April 22, 2014 at 2:10 PM

We don’t need no asteenkin badges!

Roy Rogers on April 22, 2014 at 2:11 PM

Yaaaayyy…. now even more hardened criminal black muzies on the streets !

burrata on April 22, 2014 at 2:13 PM

Gotta agree with Ed on this one. Prosecutorial misconduct also rears its ugly head at times.

butch on April 22, 2014 at 2:14 PM

America now incarcerates a higher rate of its population than any other country in the world.

?

Many countries EXECUTE their drug offenders immediately.

HotAirian on April 22, 2014 at 2:14 PM

She focuses on the case of Barbara Scrivner, serving a 30-year sentence for participating in a meth ring run by her then-husband, as an example:

Boo effing Hoo! The woman was participating in a meth ring. I do not consider this a non-violent crime. How many lives and how many families did this woman help destroy by her actions? She should rot in jail.

Happy Nomad on April 22, 2014 at 2:14 PM

….and the reason O didn’t go to Congress to change the legislation was???

CoffeeLover on April 22, 2014 at 2:15 PM

The act of pardoning or commuting implies the need for an effort to be made on the pardoners’ part to read the appropriate files.
Effort = Work
Work is not really in the wheel house of the current president. Ergo, the minimum number of pardons and commutations. Gee, just like his stint on the law review in law school.

parke on April 22, 2014 at 2:16 PM

However, as long as each case is somewhat evaluated, this seems like a fair way to treat non-violent criminals.

cajunpatriot on April 22, 2014 at 2:09 PM

I will say that’s the one thing I’m concerned about, and I should have stated that above. This should really only be looked at for Non-Violent crimes, with MAYBE an exception here or there for someone who was railroaded or given a crazy sentence even at the time of conviction for something minor. The last thing we need is a convicted murderer/rapist back out on the streets.

nextgen_repub on April 22, 2014 at 2:16 PM

….and the reason O didn’t go to Congress to change the legislation was???

CoffeeLover on April 22, 2014 at 2:15 PM

What is a Congress ?

burrata on April 22, 2014 at 2:18 PM

Aaargh! It’s that ginger with a face full of hardware again!!

John the Libertarian on April 22, 2014 at 2:19 PM

Obama will pardon anybody that will result in a net gain of democrat voters.

meci on April 22, 2014 at 2:19 PM

The Smarter Sentencing Act would make the shorter crack sentences enacted in 2010 retroactive.

This could actually be a bipartisan issue.

rbj on April 22, 2014 at 2:19 PM

With Barack Hussein Obama and Eric Holder running the show, I expect there will be a heavy racial element to the selection of the victims of “injustice” deserving of executive clemency and pardons.

novaculus on April 22, 2014 at 2:20 PM

King-Emperor Choom needs more vassals.

RoadRunner on April 22, 2014 at 2:21 PM

Drug dealing not a violent crime?

Unless growing your own product or manufacturing your own product, I’m confident there is blood or great bodily harm associated with every gram of whatever that the dealer sells. Sounds like murder or attempted murder in furtherance of a criminal enterprise.

Another point I’ve heard is that some number (small? large?) of these new baby seals actually PLED DOWN to lesser charges to get the charge they got. Before modifying the sentences, let’s see how they look with the original sentences considered.

BuckeyeSam on April 22, 2014 at 2:22 PM

The last thing we need is a convicted murderer/rapist back out on the streets.

nextgen_repub on April 22, 2014 at 2:16 PM

Even more chilling is the idea that criminals will be released as a quid pro quo for OFA or some other special interest group.

Believe it or not, not everyone in jail with a non-violent conviction is not of the fuzzy “innocent” kind of guilt that Ed (and apparently many others) thinks doesn’t matter. Nevermind a woman was helping destroy lives with meth! She’s got a family so that gives merits a get-out-of-jail card!!!!! But somebody railroaded the way that Patrick Fitzgerald did with Lewis “Scooter” Libby and many others- no justice for them!

Happy Nomad on April 22, 2014 at 2:23 PM

all those potential voters, all those Obamacare enrollees.

katiejane on April 22, 2014 at 2:23 PM

Non-violent drug offenders should not be in jail.
It’s a travesty that a drunk driver gets to walk the streets with a suspended license but someone busted for having weed brownies spends months in jail.
Which one is more of a threat to humanity? Eating weed brownies at home or driving drunk on the public highways?

Weedisgood.

weedisgood on April 22, 2014 at 2:27 PM

When is obama going to be IMPEACHED?

Pork-Chop on April 22, 2014 at 2:27 PM

I feel sorry for military children who grow up with out their parents lost to battle. Children who grew up without their meth cooking parents…..not so much.

ctmom on April 22, 2014 at 2:28 PM

Violent criminals get far less, and in Scrivner’s case the judge not only lamented the mandatory sentence, prosecutors today wouldn’t be able to get it — because Congress did repeal the mandatory sentence for the crime for which she got convicted. Did that punishment fit the crime?

The power of Congress mainly relates to checks on power going forward. To rectify injustices of the past — to the extent they exist — the executive branch not only has the authority to act but the duty to do so as well.

Couldn’t Congress have made the repeal of the mandatory minimum sentence for that crime retroactive? If they didn’t, why didn’t they?

I don’t see how it is the President’s “duty” to do something Congress chose not to do. Among many other objections, that is a dangerous road to travel.

Missy on April 22, 2014 at 2:30 PM

Aaargh! It’s that ginger with a face full of hardware again!!

John the Libertarian on April 22, 2014 at 2:19 PM

Quick! Drop your 8,000 lb magnet and run! There’s no way she could catch us then.

Effay5 on April 22, 2014 at 2:31 PM

Bad president, good idea – assuming his pardons will be colorblind. In reality, I wouldn’t count on it.

Rix on April 22, 2014 at 2:10 PM

I don’t care if those pardoned are 99.9% black. Non-violent drug users do not belong in jail. And I’m far from a liberal.

Weedisgood

weedisgood on April 22, 2014 at 2:31 PM

Nevermind a woman was helping destroy lives with meth! She’s got a family so that gives merits a get-out-of-jail card!!!!! But somebody railroaded the way that Patrick Fitzgerald did with Lewis “Scooter” Libby and many others- no justice for them!

Happy Nomad on April 22, 2014 at 2:23 PM

I don’t think the point was that she didn’t do any harm, or that she was completely innocent. It was that she’s currently serving 30 years (for which she must actually serve all 30 years) where someone who got a conviction for attempted murder would be serving less time than that. And that the mandatory minimum which was used to convict her has been changed.

To say someone shouldn’t be pardoned because another in a screwed up situation isn’t doesn’t make sense to me. Both should be pardoned, but don’t hold the “politics” of it against the first person who was screwed.

nextgen_repub on April 22, 2014 at 2:32 PM

With Barack Hussein Obama and Eric Holder running the show, I expect there will be a heavy racial element to the selection of the victims of “injustice” deserving of executive clemency and pardons.

novaculus on April 22, 2014 at 2:20 PM

Yes, it will be like walking the leadoff batter in an inning. Bad things will probably result.

butch on April 22, 2014 at 2:33 PM

Please explain to me what a non-violent drug offense is. I am a retired Federal prosecutor and am married to a current Federal prosecutor who tries nothing but drug cases. It’s been decades since any Assistant U.S. Attorney has prosecuted simple possession cases. It takes substantial amounts of serious drugs to meet the Federal thresholds for prosecution, and then the charges focus on sale, distribution, or possession with intent to distribute large amounts of Heroin, Cocaine, Crack, Meth, and–far less frequently–marijuana (but then we’re talking tons). Even if the drug transactions don’t involve ACTUAL violence, there is always the THREAT of violence lurking in the background. And, what about the destruction that these drugs, or others like Oxycodone, do to the folks who obtain them? Just look at a before and after photo of a 5 year crack user or someone strung out on meth. You don’t have to shoot someone to violently destroy their lives.

TonyP on April 22, 2014 at 2:35 PM

This.

Another point I’ve heard is that some number (small? large?) of these new baby seals actually PLED DOWN to lesser charges to get the charge they got. Before modifying the sentences, let’s see how they look with the original sentences considered.

BuckeyeSam on April 22, 2014 at 2:22 PM

I wouldn’t oppose it if they can work out a system that reviews potential clemency for non-violent crimes as long as that was the only crime they were charged with.

Effay5 on April 22, 2014 at 2:35 PM

At last, an attempt at deficit reduction!

WryTrvllr on April 22, 2014 at 2:40 PM

It’s also very interesting that Obama and Holder are planning to release thousands of “non-violent” felons immediately after pushing for the restoration of “non-violent” felons right to vote.

Folks not familiar with the “Chicago Way” just don’t appreciate how thoroughly and relentlessly its practitioners engage in raw, partisan politicking. Everything they do has a political end, and about 99% of what they do is primarily motivated by purely partisan politics. They constantly exploit their power and the institutions they control to reward their friends and punish their enemies.

Now they intend to release thousands of felons and give them the right to vote. Another constituency created, this one uniquely suited to Democrats’ plans and purposes.

novaculus on April 22, 2014 at 2:42 PM

When the judicial process fails to deliver a just outcome, governors and presidents should exercise their authority to correct the excesses, while employing a competent screening process to assure that cases of true injustice receive clemency, rather than those that are mere favors for those with political connections.

Indeed…and well said.
I’d offer though that mandatory sentencing is a result of the political process…not a judicial one. Judges have had their hands tied by ignorant and ineffective laws. For too long ‘tough on crime’ electioneering has brought about ‘dumb on crime’ results.

verbaluce on April 22, 2014 at 2:42 PM

The One’s behind the other Pardoners-in-Chiefs? Stay tuned. There will be a plethora of last minute pardons when O pardons his entire administration…

vnvet on April 22, 2014 at 2:42 PM

Before modifying the sentences, let’s see how they look with the original sentences considered.
BuckeyeSam on April 22, 2014 at 2:22 PM

Do you mean charges? Lots of plea deals are made, and this occurs prior to sentencing usually to gain a negotiated sentence without trial.

But yeah, if some dude was initially charged with drug trafficking or a RICO count, then turns states evidence in exchange for a much lighter sentence…..that should be considered.

BTW, this lady that is being used as the poster child? Anyone want to lay odds that she’s back on the pipe within 6 months of her release? My guess is everyone she knows is hard up, and that’s where she will be moving back into. Its sad, but a fact.

Does she need to be in jail this long for what she did? No. But expectations are low. Maybe I’ll be surprised, and I’ll remain hopeful that she’ll make it.

BobMbx on April 22, 2014 at 2:43 PM

Our justice system has serious problems but massive presidential pardons is not a good approach. We need to fix the system.

And Obama is one of the most partisan presidents we’ve ever had and leads a corrupt regime and is one of the least transparent presidents we’ve seen – he’s not the guy you want making massive pardons.

gwelf on April 22, 2014 at 2:44 PM

Non-violent drug offenders should not be in jail.

weedisgood on April 22, 2014 at 2:27 PM

What about the guy who cooks up hundreds of pounds of meth, or the guy who smuggles pounds of heroin into the country?

Non-violent. Let them go or what?

BobMbx on April 22, 2014 at 2:45 PM

Indeed…and well said.
I’d offer though that mandatory sentencing is a result of the political process…not a judicial one. Judges have had their hands tied by ignorant and ineffective laws. For too long ‘tough on crime’ electioneering has brought about ‘dumb on crime’ results.

verbaluce on April 22, 2014 at 2:42 PM

The other end of the spectrum being the Duke La Crosse team.

WryTrvllr on April 22, 2014 at 2:45 PM

lacrosse

WryTrvllr on April 22, 2014 at 2:46 PM

This is totally logical.
The prisons are too crowded so they need to make room for all of us 2nd Amendment gun nuts who keep saying stuff like “molon labe”….

What do ya bet they start with prisoners in NY and Connecticut?
Lots of uppity gun nuts in those 2 states ready to be rounded up – as soon as they have empty cells to put them in.

dentarthurdent on April 22, 2014 at 2:46 PM

King-Emperor Choom needs more vassals.

RoadRunner on April 22, 2014 at 2:21 PM

Can’t make it to the polls if you don’t know what day it is.

WryTrvllr on April 22, 2014 at 2:49 PM

I don’t think the point was that she didn’t do any harm, or that she was completely innocent. It was that she’s currently serving 30 years (for which she must actually serve all 30 years) where someone who got a conviction for attempted murder would be serving less time than that. And that the mandatory minimum which was used to convict her has been changed.

nextgen_repub on April 22, 2014 at 2:32 PM

I don’t see how participating meth isn’t considered attempted murder. How many people did she help kill with her actions. How many families destroyed by addiction. I have zero sympathy for her situation- even if the law was changed later. Again, all the soft-hearted nonsense that this woman wasn’t a violent criminal is dead wrong. It just wasn’t that she killed anybody directly.

Happy Nomad on April 22, 2014 at 2:50 PM

Ed Morrissey and Doug Maticonis are reading McCarthy wrong:

As for the rest of McCarthy’s argument, you can expect that this will be the standard conservative response to this announcement. Rather than recognizing the fact that the President is right about the terrible impact that things like disparate sentencing for crack cocaine and mandatory minimums have had on the lives of real people, they will make the false argument that President is “making an end run” around Congress. In reality, what’s happening here is that the President is authorizing the power that the Constitution has granted him to right a terrible wrong and to bring this issue to the forefront of public attention. Maybe when that happens, the Republicans in Congress will finally act on this issue rather than using it as another weapon in the never ending partisan attacks on the President.

That’s not a false argument. And you’re proving McCarthy’s point. Disparate sentencing and the wisdom or folly of mandatory minimums is a POLICY issue that CONGRESS should decide. If the president grants massive blanket pardons he’s not in fact addressing individual injustices but making an end run around Congress’ role.

gwelf on April 22, 2014 at 2:51 PM

The Dims are hurting for more votes, clear out the prisons!

Meople on April 22, 2014 at 2:51 PM

I have absolutely no problem in principle with a case by case review of sentencing in minimum mandatory sentence drug cases which at least on their face do not involve violence perpetrated by the defendant, particularly where the penalties have been significantly reduced in the meantime.

It would be a huge job, however, and would require highly conscientious examination of all the facts if justice is to be done..

Pardon me if I question whether such a conscientious review is what Eric and Barry have in mind. The process will more likely involve only 3 steps:

1) Crack dealer?

2) Wasn’t actually standing over the bloody body of a victim at the time of arrest?

3) Black?

Fit these criteria, and you will be declared a victim of whitey injustice deserving of a pardon and a voter’s registration card.

What could go wrong?

novaculus on April 22, 2014 at 2:54 PM

This dope is OUT OF CONTROL. His recent antics are stunning to any reasonable thinking American.

rjoco1 on April 22, 2014 at 2:54 PM

So, IF the Preezy was intentionally trying to destroy America, what would he be doing differently?

Meople on April 22, 2014 at 2:57 PM

I have a question.

First, I admit I agree in general with this policy. We’ve gone a bit overboard in sentencing and some ramping back of sentences to fit the crimes more appropriately rather than punishing people for “ills to society” instead of what they actually did seems rational.

Now there seems to be a call that Congress should do this.

HOW?

That is my question.

I KNOW Congress is not allowed an ex post facto law to criminalize a past action.

Can they do the opposite, and change existing and already passed down sentences as part of existing laws for existing sentences being served?

And have they ever done so?

Honestly I don’t know the answer to this… and I’d like to.

IF Congress CAN fix this, lets push to have Congress fix this. But if Congress can only fix FUTURE sentencing guidelines; then we have a clear situation of people who are in this situation now who cannot be changed outside of some clemency by the Executive Branch, don’t we?

Maybe this isn’t the way to do it; but is there another way to do it?

gekkobear on April 22, 2014 at 2:57 PM

I have a question.

First, I admit I agree in general with this policy. We’ve gone a bit overboard in sentencing and some ramping back of sentences to fit the crimes more appropriately rather than punishing people for “ills to society” instead of what they actually did seems rational.

Now there seems to be a call that Congress should do this.

HOW?

That is my question.

I KNOW Congress is not allowed an ex post facto law to criminalize a past action.

Can they do the opposite, and change existing and already passed down sentences as part of existing laws for existing sentences being served?

And have they ever done so?

Honestly I don’t know the answer to this… and I’d like to.

IF Congress CAN fix this, lets push to have Congress fix this. But if Congress can only fix FUTURE sentencing guidelines; then we have a clear situation of people who are in this situation now who cannot be changed outside of some clemency by the Executive Branch, don’t we?

Maybe this isn’t the way to do it; but is there another way to do it?

gekkobear on April 22, 2014 at 2:57 PM

+1

gwelf on April 22, 2014 at 3:01 PM

The pardon power exists so that the president can act in individual cases to correct excesses and injustices. It is not supposed to be a vehicle by which presidents rewrite congressional statutes that they disagree with philosophically (just as “prosecutorial discretion,” another doctrine the Obama administration has abused, is not supposed to be a vehicle by which the president substitutes his policies for duly enacted federal law).

Quick review:

Article II, Section 2:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

Sorry, but it does allow him to do just that. The only limit is impeachments.

Its.The.Law. Get over it. Just to be clear, every President has this power. Not just the real bad ones.

BobMbx on April 22, 2014 at 3:01 PM

The only limit is impeachments.

BobMbx on April 22, 2014 at 3:01 PM

Speaking of impeachments, YES, he should be.

Meople on April 22, 2014 at 3:03 PM

And in the meantime, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy wants to have people go to jail for exercising their 2nd Amendment rights!! Go figure!!

“If you don’t go to jail for gun possession, you continue to carry guns,” McCarthy said. “You continue to carry guns, and people get shot.”

Deano1952 on April 22, 2014 at 3:09 PM

Guess what happens when these mandatory sentences go away? The folks with connections get lighter sentences and those without get screwed.

Thousands and thousands of people like Scrivner are serving punishingly long sentences in federal prison based on draconian policies that were a relic of the “tough on crime” antidrug laws of the ’80s and ’90s.

Actually, she’s serving this sentence because she chose to be a partner in a meth distribution ring. No doubt this is a long sentence, perhaps even too long….but she has only herself to blame.

And what about non-drug related non-violent offenders? Will they be getting clemency as well?

xblade on April 22, 2014 at 3:10 PM

Its.The.Law. Get over it. Just to be clear, every President has this power. Not just the real bad ones.

BobMbx on April 22, 2014 at 3:01 PM

I don’t think McCarthy is claiming the president doesn’t have the power but is saying that it would be an abuse of that power.

gwelf on April 22, 2014 at 3:11 PM

BTW, it’s interesting to note how much the violent crime rate has gone down with all these “non-violent” criminals locked up, lol.

xblade on April 22, 2014 at 3:15 PM

On the other hand if Democrats – including Eric Holder – can get Marc Rich pardoned then why not these people?
=)

gwelf on April 22, 2014 at 3:18 PM

Tricky Dick shortened 60 sentences in 67 years

Wow, and here I thought there was a term limit in place…..

GWB on April 22, 2014 at 3:20 PM

Is this the run-up to using his executive authority to grant clemency to granting that blanket amnesty to all illegal aliens who haven’t been convicted of a violent crime?

Seems like his style to me.

If it’s okay for him to make ‘an end run’ around the authority of congress on drug offenses… he and Holder will argue it’s also permissible relevant to illegal aliens.

thatsafactjack on April 22, 2014 at 3:21 PM

BTW, it’s interesting to note how much the violent crime rate has gone down with all these “non-violent” criminals locked up, lol.

xblade on April 22, 2014 at 3:15 PM

But has drug use decreased or increased? How is the war on drugs working for ya?

weedisgood on April 22, 2014 at 3:21 PM

gwelf on April 22, 2014 at 3:11 PM

Quite right. Clemency and pardons should be done on a case-by-case basis. That is clearly within the president’s power.

Obama and Holder plan on defining an entire class of convicted felons Obama and Holder claim are “victims” of sentencing law Obama and Holder believe is racist and wrong, and granting clemency and pardons to them. That is exploiting the president’s power and undermining the laws passed by Congress and signed by prior presidents. That is abuse of power.

novaculus on April 22, 2014 at 3:22 PM

I don’t think McCarthy is claiming the president doesn’t have the power but is saying that it would be an abuse of that power.

gwelf on April 22, 2014 at 3:11 PM

How can you abuse a power that is solely yours to use at your discretion? As given in the Constitution?

McCarthy is making an emotional argument against a clearly stated power.

None of this means I agree with all POTUS pardons, and yes, one could make the argument that many should not have been made (Marc Rich comes to mind), but thats just too bad for us.

You support the Constitution or you don’t. Its binary. No one gets to choose select parts of it, present POTUS excepted for some reason.

BobMbx on April 22, 2014 at 3:22 PM

Why did we have to wait six years til Obama started doing the right thing?

Basement Dweller on April 22, 2014 at 3:25 PM

So how long after Obama issues these pardons will he take to allow felons to vote? Because that’s all this is about. More Dem voters.

Jack_Burton on April 22, 2014 at 3:25 PM

So, the first one of these non-violent sweeties that kills somebody…

The media’s going to be all over linking that back to the administration, right?

I didn’t think so.

trigon on April 22, 2014 at 3:29 PM

How can you abuse a power that is solely yours to use at your discretion? As given in the Constitution?

McCarthy is making an emotional argument against a clearly stated power.

None of this means I agree with all POTUS pardons, and yes, one could make the argument that many should not have been made (Marc Rich comes to mind), but thats just too bad for us.

You support the Constitution or you don’t. Its binary. No one gets to choose select parts of it, present POTUS excepted for some reason.

BobMbx on April 22, 2014 at 3:22 PM

Just because the Constitution grants a power doesn’t mean it cannot be abused. And he’s not making an emotional argument. He claiming that this is not how the pardon power was meant to be used or how it should be properly used. He’s not saying the president is barred by the Constitution from doing so.

Technically the president could use his pardon powers to negate regulations passed by Congress. He has the power but this would be an abuse.

gwelf on April 22, 2014 at 3:30 PM

Which one is more of a threat to humanity? Eating weed brownies at home or driving drunk on the public highways?

Weedisgood.

weedisgood on April 22, 2014 at 2:27 PM

I don’t know, but that insufferable double name is proof to me that weed makes you…insufferable.

Look, son, we know your name.

And you simply ain’t important enough to have it twice. Eon at least is a lawyer.

Lanceman on April 22, 2014 at 3:32 PM

Why did we have to wait six years til Obama started doing the right thing?

Basement Dweller on April 22, 2014 at 3:25 PM

On which subject?

WryTrvllr on April 22, 2014 at 3:42 PM

Obama planning expansion of clemency for “thousands” of non-violent offenders

Next election must be pretty tight when you’ve got to release ‘thousands’ of Democratic voters.

GarandFan on April 22, 2014 at 3:43 PM

When is obama going to be IMPEACHED?

Pork-Chop on April 22, 2014 at 2:27 PM

You can’t impeach a Messiah…everybody knows that…

PatriotRider on April 22, 2014 at 3:44 PM

Which one is more of a threat to humanity? Eating weed brownies at home or driving drunk on the public highways?

weedisgood on April 22, 2014 at 2:27 PM

A college student visiting Denver jumped to his death from a hotel balcony after eating marijuana-infused cookies, according to a coroner’s report that marks the first time authorities have publicly linked a death to marijuana since legal sales of recreational cannabis began in Colorado.

The body counts starts with the first death. Alcohol has a big headstart, though.

BobMbx on April 22, 2014 at 3:58 PM

Scrivner self-admittedly was part of a meth manufacturing and distribution ring. When apprehened she refused to testify against other members of the ring. She was offered a deal for 10 years and decided she’d rather have a trial by jury. Knowing you’re guilty and knowing they have the evidence, including your confession, and still going to trial isn’t very smart. Take the deal! As Sgt Stryker says; “Life is tough, but it’s tougher if you’re stupid.”

SoonerMarine on April 22, 2014 at 4:00 PM

On which subject?

WryTrvllr on April 22, 2014 at 3:42 PM

Take your pick.

Basement Dweller on April 22, 2014 at 4:02 PM

Take your pick.

Basement Dweller on April 22, 2014 at 4:02 PM

Exactly. I’m still waiting!

WryTrvllr on April 22, 2014 at 4:05 PM

Don’t want this lady as my neighbor and her complicity is as criminal as her husband’s. If she’s baking cookies in the same house this activity took place, she is guilty. Length of sentence? Up to Congress, the People.

Her behavior is a dangerous blight to any place, let alone her insistence at participating without considering her children, let alone others’. I have to spend hours learning how to keep criminals from using our store as a vehicle for money laundering. Non-violent? Tell that to the victims of the cartel infighting and intimidation. Oh, wait…they can’t answer.

This poster-child was a well-chosen front, like the little boy whose mother would be alive today! if she had been in Obamacare, propped up next to Choomie. Most others will be black. Nothing wrong with that under the statistical reality, but notice whose photos are released to the press. And this gal has been friendly with her cellmates, without a doubt.

winoceros on April 22, 2014 at 4:06 PM

The body counts starts with the first death. Alcohol has a big headstart, though.

BobMbx on April 22, 2014 at 3:58 PM

I would suggest this one is even worse:

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/04/17/denver-police-say-man-ate-pot-candy-before-killing-his-wife-during-12-minute-11/

dentarthurdent on April 22, 2014 at 4:06 PM

The power of pardons or commutations also exist to correct oversentencing in cases where sentencing requirements were irrationally applied. Scrivner got 30 years despite not being convicted of a violent crime, which she must serve in full before release.

Ed, I think you’re being willfully ignorant here.

Whatever the details of this one case, the administration is planning on using the power on a wide range of cases, not just this one particular case.

You’re correct to say that the purpose of the power the President has is to make it right in these sorts of cases (assuming the facts are as you’ve stated them) and sure, Congress has already acted and corrected the problem for the future.

But we’re not talking about just this one case. We are talking about a wide range of cases that may look nothing like this one particular case. That is where Andrew McCarthy comes in and his argument applies. And where your argument becomes silly.

Baggi on April 22, 2014 at 4:07 PM

The body counts starts with the first death. Alcohol has a big headstart, though.

BobMbx on April 22, 2014 at 3:58 PM

No. The libs just reset the clock on all the others, when they got “controlled”.

WryTrvllr on April 22, 2014 at 4:08 PM

Eating brownies and driving vs alcohol and driving….not home vs. in public.

Typical false premise based on false equivalency. As my grandfather would say, “Do you walk to school or carry your lunch?”

Surely there is a logical argument to be made?

winoceros on April 22, 2014 at 4:10 PM

The body counts starts with the first death. Alcohol has a big headstart, though.

BobMbx on April 22, 2014 at 3:58 PM

We believe this only because of our own ignorance. We count such accidents and deaths as “Driving under the influence.” and rarely do we separate out what was influencing such driving. Most of us assume it was alcohol. Even the local police.

We never wait around for an autopsy because they are too expensive and for what? Statistics? No one cares to spend the money.

I submit to you the following. Drunk driving kills. But drinking, sobering up, and then driving, doesn’t. High driving also kills. But smoking dope, waiting for the immediate high to wear off, and then driving, also kills. Because smoking dope makes permanent changes to the brain.

I don’t want a dope smoker operating on me or my family. But how would I know? I would certainly know if they’d been drinking before operating.

We are a very foolish society to allow this. Very foolish.

Baggi on April 22, 2014 at 4:12 PM

Exactly. I’m still waiting!

WryTrvllr on April 22, 2014 at 4:05 PM

Heh. I think mandatory minimum sentences are a crock of doo-doo, created by ladder-climbing pols to appear “tough on crime.”

Basement Dweller on April 22, 2014 at 4:21 PM

Seeking justice or an end-run around Congress?

Duh. Seeking Dem voters, that’s why.

KS Rex on April 22, 2014 at 4:30 PM

OK, So:

Barbara Scrivner, serving a 30-year sentence for participating in a meth ring

So I’m supposed top feel bad for Barbara? Because she got pregnant while she was selling meth?

I googled Barbara Scrivner and the first hit was “Jailhouse-Babes”, have a look at this woman.

I am a sincere, open, honest, organized, very humorous & versatile woman. I love all genres of things in life and I love to laugh & be happy.

Write to me and learn all the depths there are to my soul. So if you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain or long walks on the highway :-) write to me. I have a lot to offer the right person. Including a crippling addiction to a drug that will enslave you.

I may have added the last part. I really didn’t see that many tattoos during my entire time in the USN.
This woman is where she belongs. If she is supposed to gin up sympathy for Obamas latest lawlessness as the poster child for for his latest stupid idea it is just further conformation that they don’t care what we think, because it’s obvious she got what she deserves.

V7_Sport on April 22, 2014 at 4:47 PM

At last, an attempt at deficit reduction!

WryTrvllr on April 22, 2014 at 2:40 PM

I expect the greedy union representing prison guards will object.

slickwillie2001 on April 22, 2014 at 4:48 PM

I don’t see how participating meth isn’t considered attempted murder. How many people did she help kill with her actions. How many families destroyed by addiction. I have zero sympathy for her situation- even if the law was changed later. Again, all the soft-hearted nonsense that this woman wasn’t a violent criminal is dead wrong. It just wasn’t that she killed anybody directly.

Happy Nomad on April 22, 2014 at 2:50 PM

People take meth and don’t die…and people who sell meth are actually hoping the people they sell to don’t die…as that would kind of destroy their ability to make money. So, yes people may have potentially died at some point, but that wasn’t her intent, so hard to compare that to someone who intended to kill. The point was, she was given 30 years for something that even the judge at the time states she would not be given if not for the mandatory min, which is now gone.

I don’t feel sorry for her as much as I understand wanting to go back and correct the incorrect sentencing that occurred as a result of politics getting too involved in the judicial system.

As far as plea deals go…I’ll just relate my jury duty case where the DA admitted to us after we found a guy not-guilty of assault with a deadly weapon and felony possession of a gun that he pretty much agreed with us that he was innocent of those charges (we found him guilt of possession of meth). But hey, might as well throw everything you can at a criminal and see what sticks! No wonder some lawyers recommend their clients plea…

nextgen_repub on April 22, 2014 at 4:49 PM

nextgen_repub

I have no issue with this at all…especially in cases like the Scrivner’s.

She’s just not into you dude.

The 3 strikes rule in California was God awful.

And it saw crime rates tumble by putting recidivist criminals in prison.

…there’s no way you’ll ever get me to agree that someone should get more for personal use possession than a criminal gets for a violent act.

Selling and manufacturing meth IS a violent act.

V7_Sport on April 22, 2014 at 4:52 PM

If he doesn’t pardon all these dirt-bags, who will staff the Obamacare call-in center?

Wyznowski on April 22, 2014 at 4:58 PM

Eating weed brownies at home or driving drunk on the public highways?

Weedisgood.

weedisgood on April 22, 2014 at 2:27 PM

Obviously you are a pot head, why else would you pose such an inane question?

Do you really believe that nobody drives after ingesting pot brownies? Do you think that having THC in your system does not impair your driving?

Don’t bother posting your absurd alcohol is much worse tripe either, alcohol being worse doesn’t negate the effects marijuana has on people.

Weed is the ultimate stupid drug for the majority of users, which is a big problem.

Neitherleftorright on April 22, 2014 at 4:58 PM

Calm down.

Basement Dweller on April 22, 2014 at 5:08 PM

What’s with the A vs B debate when it comes to alc and mary?

What’s wrong with loving both? :)

Basement Dweller on April 22, 2014 at 5:20 PM

What’s wrong with loving both? :)

Basement Dweller on April 22, 2014 at 5:20 PM

Maybe there is nothing wrong with loving both when you are a basement dweller.

Of course, many would rather not live in their parent’s basement for the rest of their lives and so decide to grow up and be a contributor.

Neitherleftorright on April 22, 2014 at 5:36 PM

slickwillie2001 on April 22, 2014 at 4:48 PM

Thanks for the assist, but it still doesn’t get it.

WryTrvllr on April 22, 2014 at 6:53 PM

Faithfully execute the laws of the land? No, that is too much of a bother to the President who should go to CONGRESS if he wants the laws changed. You see Congress is just such a bump in the road… can’t be bothered with it.

ajacksonian on April 22, 2014 at 7:03 PM

She’s just not into you dude.

Why you have her personal so handy is not known to me…but I’m good.

And it saw crime rates tumble by putting recidivist criminals in prison.

They would have gone to jail with or without mandatory minimums. But I’m sure rates did go down, but it also had unintended consequences. Likewise I’m sure since enacting zero tolerance policies schools can say they have seen a reduction in disciplinary actions, but was it worth it?

Selling and manufacturing meth IS a violent act.

Jesus…it’s the same thing as rape, murder, and beating someone into a coma with a bat? Cause those are the violent acts people including myself are obviously talking about.

Again, no ones saying she should have served just 1 day or what she did wasn’t wrong…but…you know what, if you don’t get the point of this by now, then you never will.

nextgen_repub on April 22, 2014 at 7:18 PM

Why you have her personal so handy is not known to me…but I’m good.

Either I have a thing for reform school girls or I know how to use this.

They would have gone to jail with or without mandatory minimums.

Yes, after committing more crimes… The point to all of this is to reduce crime. Right?

I’m sure since enacting zero tolerance policies schools can say they have seen a reduction in disciplinary actions, but was it worth it?

Do you really want me to list the logical fallacies between drawing an equivalence between biting a pop-tart into the shape of a gun and manufacturing and selling Methamphetamine? Stop

…it’s the same thing as rape, murder, and beating someone into a coma with a bat?

If it leads to that, It leads to people losing themselves to this drug and they will do anything and suffer through anything to get it. Look at what it does to people. I’de actually rather have a quick act of violence committed against me then to lose everything to this drug. You can pick yourself up after a bar fight on Friday night and still go to work on Monday. This, not so much.

…you know what, if you don’t get the point of this by now, then you never will.

It’s not persuasive. Sorry, but people very, very rarely go to prison like this for accident and there are mechanisms to deal with that. Often these are cases that are pleaded down to what is cost effective for the state to press, and the harm these “victimless” cases do is far beyond the individual who is committing them.

V7_Sport on April 22, 2014 at 8:32 PM

*by accident.

V7_Sport on April 22, 2014 at 9:08 PM

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