President Obama: Pardon Prisoners and Commute Unjust Sentences

President Obama: Pardon Prisoners and Commute Unjust Sentences

While the Obama administration has fallen short on many of the actual policy changes needed to end the "war on drugs," there's one tool at the administrative's disposal that could have a sweeping and immediate impact on our criminal justice system: the pardon power. Although Attorney General Eric Holder has called on federal prosecutors to avoid mandatory minimums, which require automatic sentences for certain crimes and take away judges' power to consider individual circumstances, prosecutors continue to pursue them and offenders continue to serve decades-long sentences for nonviolent drug crimes. 

On their website, the organization Families Against Mandatory Minimums highlights some of the most striking cases: There's Weldon Angelos, serving fifty-five years for selling marijuana while possessing a fire arm—a sentence the judge on the case called "unjust, cruel and even irrational." There's also Stephanie George, a mother of three serving life in prison without parole for being "a girlfriend and bag holder and money holder" in a drug conspiracy.

The public is clearly not served by locking up offenders who pose no danger, separating them from their families and taking away their ability to work or otherwise contribute to society. Join The Nation in calling on President Obama to pardon or commute the sentences of federal prisoners serving excessive sentences for nonviolent drug crimes.

Prison hand
Reuters/Joshua Lott

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