President Joe Biden (D) is commuting the sentences of 75 nonviolent drug offenders today to mark Second Chance Month, according to a CNN report. It is the president’s first time wielding the clemency powers afforded to him by his office.
The move — which a senior administration official said “reflects the President’s broader commitment to reform our justice system and address racial disparities” — comes as there remain more than 40,000 individuals incarcerated for cannabis-related charges, and despite Biden’s purported belief that “Nobody should be in jail for smoking marijuana.”
“America is a nation of laws and second chances, redemption, and rehabilitation. Elected officials on both sides of the aisle, faith leaders, civil rights advocates, and law enforcement leaders agree that our criminal justice system can and should reflect these core values that enable safer and stronger communities. During Second Chance Month, I am using my authority under the Constitution to uphold those values by pardoning and commuting the sentences of fellow Americans.” — Biden, in a written statement via CNN
In addition to the 75 commuted sentences, Biden is also issuing full pardons to three individuals.
The Last Prisoner Project, an advocacy group fighting for the release of all cannabis prisoners, called out the move on Monday, tweeting, “President Biden, if you truly believe that ‘no one should be in jail because of drug use,’ it’s time to put those words into action.”
President Biden, if you truly believe that “no one should be in jail because of drug use,” it’s time to put those words into action.
— Last Prisoner Project (@lastprisonerprj) April 25, 2022
NORML’s Executive Director Erik Altieri described the move as “woefully inadequate.”
“It is well past the time for President Biden to make good on his campaign promise to expunge the records of all federal marijuana offenders and prove that justice isn’t just a buzzword he uses to gain votes during election season,” Altieri said in a statement.
Second Chance Month started in the U.S. in 2017 as an effort to raise awareness of the collateral consequences of criminal convictions and the country’s rampant incarceration rates. The month is observed to create second-chance opportunities for people whose past convictions have prevented them from fully reincorporating themselves into society.
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Biden Marks ‘Second Chance Month’ By Commuting Just 75 Drug Conviction Sentences