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President Obama grants clemency to 21

By Hazel Trice Edney
Trice Edney Newswire

Twenty-one people experienced a special Christmas as President Obama granted them clemency.

Eight received shortened sentences, most due for release in the spring. Thirteen others received outright pardons. Most were convicted of non-violent drug offenses like possession or distribution of crack cocaine. The pardons and commutations received applause from the civil rights community, which has long fought against the 100:1 disparities between crack cocaine and powder cocaine sentences.

“The administration is continuing to correct a badly drawn path by law and practice,” stated NAACP Interim President/CEO Lorraine Miller. “When the War on Drugs was initiated, too many laws were passed that were not fully thought through — one of those being mandatory sentencing for crack cocaine possession and other drug offenses partially driven by media sensationalism and faulty information on drug distinctions, their use, and their effects. Caught in the middle of that war were the poor and communities of color in America that are more likely to be targeted, caught and incarcerated for crack cocaine offenses.”

Analysis by the NAACP concludes “all of the men and women inmates whose sentences were commuted had served at least 15 years in prison. Six were serving life terms. Neither inmate would have been committed to those long terms under the new sentencing guidelines set by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2011.”

The NAACP credits the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services for reporting that Blacks comprise approximately 13 percent and whites comprise approximately 60 percent of illegal drug users in the nation.

“Yet, African Americans make up 84.7 percent of crack cocaine convictions, while white Americans only make up less than 2 percent of those convicted,” the NAACP reports.

“We are ecstatic that the administration has been able to continue the progress it has made in addressing this issue of disparities and injustices in drug related sentencing and offenses,” said Hilary Shelton. “The Fair Sentencing Act signed in 2011 sought to address the vast disparities in sentencing that have disproportionately harmed racial and ethnic minority citizens. It is our hope the administration and the Congress will continue to work to correct these disparities in our criminal justice system.”


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