Obama Sets Clemency Record After Granting 98 More Commutations

Thomson Correctional Center
Thomson Correctional Center / AP
October 27, 2016

President Obama now holds the record for the most clemencies issued in a year by a president after he granted 98 more commutations on Thursday.

Obama has given a record total of 688 commutations so far in 2016 and during his time in office has shortened 872 federal inmates' sentences, the most of any president since Woodrow Wilson, USA Today reported.

Advocates of Obama's actions have said that it corrects severe sentences that were subject to older sentencing guidelines. The Obama administration points out that the majority of those who receive these commutations are non-violent drug offenders. After Obama began approving the requests in larger numbers, there has been an increase in applications by other inmates.

Obama has declined many applications as well, USA Today noted.

On Oct. 6, for example, the White House announced that Obama granted 102 commutations. It wasn't until a week later that the Justice Department updated its clemency statistics to reveal that he had denied 2,917 commutation petitions on Sept. 30.

There is also the case of one inmate who was granted clemency, but refused the commutation due to conditions that were placed on it.

And 42 of the commutations granted Thursday have strings attached. As part of an increasing practice of attaching conditions to his commutations, Obama required inmates with a documented history of drug use to enroll in a residential drug treatment program before being released.

At least one prisoner, Arnold Ray Jones of Texas, has refused to accept clemency because of that condition.