President Barack Obama on Monday granted clemency to 231 individuals, the largest single day act of his presidency and totaling 1,324 total while in office.
Obama granted 153 commutations, bringing the total number of commutations while he’s been in office to 1,176, including 395 life sentences.
A majority of the commutations involved drug related charges.
Obama also granted pardons to 78 individuals, doubling his previous number of pardons for a total of 148.
White House Counsel Neil Eggleston said Monday that he expects Obama will issue even more grants of commutations and pardons before leaving office.
Obama has previously said he hopes to bring the existing sentences of inmates more in line with current laws, which have been relaxed after an era of strict mandatory minimums mostly related to non-violent drug crimes.
Four individuals from Hampton Roads were granted clemency:
- Jermaine Brown – Hampton, Va.
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute cocaine, cocaine base, and marijuana; possession with intent to distribute cocaine; possession with intent to distribute cocaine base; possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime (two counts); distribution of cocaine base; Eastern District of Virginia
Sentence: Nearly 46 years imprisonment; five years supervised release (July 8, 2011); amended to nearly 43 years imprisonment (June 13, 2016) Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to a term of nearly 18 years imprisonment.
- Tyrelle Deyon Jones – Yorktown, Va.
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine base; distribution of cocaine base (four counts); Eastern District of Virginia
Sentence: Life imprisonment; 10 years supervised release (January 5, 2004) Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 18, 2017.
- Clinton Stanley Matthews – Norfolk, Va.Offense: Conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine, cocaine base and heroin; distribute a mixture or substance containing cocaine base; possess with intent to distribute cocaine (five counts); possess with intent to distribute heroin; Eastern District of Virginia
Sentence: Life imprisonment; five years supervised release (November 30, 1993) Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 18, 2017.
- Dennis Scott McCullough – Norfolk, Va.
Offense: Conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base; Eastern District of Virginia
Sentence: Nearly 22 years imprisonment; five years supervised release (April 27, 2007) Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to a term of nearly 16 years imprisonment, conditioned upon enrollment in residential drug treatment.
Sentence reform advocates feel a sense of urgency because they doubt the Trump administration will continue Obama’s initiative to provide relief to nonviolent drug offenders, some of whom are serving four or more times the sentence they would receive today, according to administration officials.
One thing not to expect from Obama before he leaves office is a blanket pardon for undocumented immigrants or nonviolent drug offenders before Trump takes office.
Last week Attorney General Loretta Lynch was asked whether there was any possibility that the thousands of young undocumented immigrants — commonly known as “DREAMers” — could be pardoned as a group before Obama leaves office.
“The issue of pardoning someone is an individual decision that’s made on a case-by-case basis, and so there’s no legal framework or regulatory framework that allows for a pardon of a group en masse,” Lynch said, speaking at a Politico Playbook breakfast.
Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez and other House Democrats have repeatedly called on the President since the election to provide pardons to those registered for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (or DACA) program, both retroactively and prospectively. The White House has noted that a presidential pardon would not confer legal status on DACA recipients.
“The 231 individuals granted clemency today have all demonstrated that they are ready to make use — or have already made use — of a second chance,” Eggleston said in his statement.
“While each clemency recipient’s story is unique, the common thread of rehabilitation underlies all of them,” he said.