According to The Hill, Obama commuted the sentences of 102 inmates on Thursday. In total, Obama has commuted the sentences of 744 inmates, more than the last 11 presidents combined. The bulk of Obama’s commutes came this year with the total reaching 590.
White House counsel Nigel Eggleston wrote in a blog post, “These statistics make clear that the president and his administration have succeeded in efforts to reinvigorate the clemency process. Beyond the statistics, though, are stories of individuals who have overcome the longest of odds to earn this second chance.”
The Hill reported:
The Framers were clear in their reasoning for giving the power of pardon and reprieve to the president. In Federalist Paper No. 74, Alexander Hamilton, writing as Publius, wrote, “Humanity and good policy conspire to dictate, that the benign prerogative of pardoning should be as little as possible fettered or embarrassed. The criminal code of every country partakes so much of necessary severity, that without an easy access to exceptions in favor of unfortunate guilt, justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel. As the sense of responsibility is always strongest, in proportion as it is undivided, it may be inferred that a single man would be most ready to attend to the force of those motives which might plead for a mitigation of the rigor of the law, and least apt to yield to considerations which were calculated to shelter a fit object of its vengeance. The reflection that the fate of a fellow-creature depended on his sole fiat, would naturally inspire scrupulousness and caution; the dread of being accused of weakness or connivance, would beget equal circumspection, though of a different kind. On the other hand, as men generally derive confidence from their numbers, they might often encourage each other in an act of obduracy, and might be less sensible to the apprehension of suspicion or censure for an injudicious or affected clemency. On these accounts, one man appears to be a more eligible dispenser of the mercy of government, than a body of men.”
Federalist Paper No. 69 addressed the power of pardon of the president versus the power of pardon of State governors. While the president can pardon in all cases except impeachment, State governors can pardon in all cases including impeachment, except treason and murder.
As can be seen from the Federalist Papers, the pardon and/or reprieve is limited to “exceptions in favor of unfortunate guilt” and “motives which might plead for mitigation of the rigor of law.” It doesn’t declare the commutation of sentences because the law changed to a lesser sentence or if a president is of the opinion a sentence is “unjust.” Opinions on the “unjust” nature of sentences can be varied from one person to the next.
The power to pardon vested in the President by our Constitution was not meant to be abused as Hussein Soetoro or any other individual occupying the office of president has done. One can surmise the pardoning ability of the president would be used sparingly, for exceptional cases, and not a blanket move to change or alter the criminal justice system by means of fiat. And, one can surmise the pardoning ability of the president would be used when certain circumstances would indeed warrant a reprieve from the “rigor of the law.” One cannot surmise the framers would intend for this ability to be used as it is now or has been in the past. But, the framers envisioned the occupants of governmental offices to be men of honor, integrity, good moral character, and of good judgement. Unfortunately, the occupants of government offices today possess none of the qualities the framers envisioned, which is the fault of the American citizenry.
Groups have influenced Hussein Soetoro to “step up his game” in exercising pardons and reprieves because these groups want criminal justice system reform. However, the reform sought comes from the legislative branch. It does not come in “using” a power reserved for exceptions to circumvent both branches of the legislature, where the legislature is duly authorized to make law and enact punishments for violations of the law. These are found in the enumerated powers of the Congress. All other powers are reserved to the States that make laws to protect and secure right God demands that governments honor.
The ability to pardon, which is necessary and proper, to be vested in the president was never envisioned to be used as it is today. It was meant for exceptions, which would be few and far between. As with everything else, men, who are easily corruptible, abuse the power with which they are entrusted. While no man is immune from the evils of temptation and corruption, the people would be wise to choose men of integrity, honor, good moral character and good judgement instead of men who pander for votes. That is unlikely to happen as today’s elections are more of a “popularity” contest than a selection of honorable men to serve in government. Moreover, it’s difficult to find honorable men who are in politics. It’s rather obvious in this presidential election cycle.