The White House announced Tuesday that President Obama has granted an additional 79 commutations to federal inmates, bringing his total to 1,023, a figure that surpasses that of the last 11 presidents combined.
In a press call, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and White House Counsel Neil Eggleston described how the administration, through the Justice Department, has reviewed thousands of applications in the last two years, and will continue to do so as the president’s time in office winds to a close. “The president has not just met, but exceeded what he set out to do in 2014 by re-invigorating the clemency process,” Eggleston said. He reiterated the two driving principles behind Obama’s overall criminal-justice reform initiatives: “fairness under the law and the right to earn a second chance.”
Most of Obama’s communications, 839 of them, were granted this year, “which is more than most modern presidents granted during their entire administrations,” Eggleston said. Justice Department officials intend to continue to make recommendations to the president until he leaves the White House. Still, they anticipate that the incoming administration will be met with a large pool of applicants. Some 6,300 petitions were under consideration as of August 31, when the Justice Department committed to reviewing all pending petitions before January 20. Yates said they are on track to make recommendations on all of them.