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posted on 29 January 2017

How U.S. Presidents Rank For Clemency

by Felix Richter,

-- this post authored by Niall McCarthy

As one of the final acts of his presidency, Barack Obama announced that he was commuting the sentences of 330 prisoners, most of whom had been serving time for minor drug offences.

Late last week, the White House announced that Obama granted more commutations than any president in U.S. history.

In terms of total executive clemency actions, Obama granted the most since Harry S. Truman. He has primarily focused on commutations, orders that cut somebody's prison sentence short. These are different to pardons, which are usually granted after a person has served their time, a forgiveness gesture which also restores somebody's rights (which a commutation does not do).

Chelsea Manning, the army intelligence analyst who leaked sensitive information to Wikileaks, was a notable inmate on Obama's clemency list last week. However, drug offenders have accounted for the majority of commutations throughout Obama's presidency. During his time in office, Obama, consistently called for harsh sentences for drug offenders to be abolished, claiming the punishment is excessive and pushes incarceration rates to high levels compared to other developed nations.

A record number of inmates will walk free over the next few months but thousands more will remain behind bars due to their petition being denied or because a decision has not been taken. Donald Trump is unlikely to continue Obama's remarkable clemency quest. If Trump reverts back to historical norms, plenty of non-violent offenders will still be in jail for years to come.

This chart shows the number of executive clemency actions granted by U.S. presidents since 1933.

Infographic: How U.S. Presidents Rank For Clemency | Statista

You will find more statistics at Statista.

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