President Barack Obama just broke the record for the most ever presidential clemency grants on a single day, after he pardoned and commuted the sentences of 231 inmates on Dec. 19.
After the president granted 78 pardons and 153 commutations just days before Christmas, Obama has now commuted the sentences of 1,176 inmates in federal prisons. This more than doubles the number of pardons he gave in the first seven years of his term, most of which were mandatory-minimum drug sentences, notes USA Today.
"The mercy that the president has shown his 1,324 clemency recipients is remarkable, but we must remember that clemency is a tool of last resort and that only Congress can achieve the broader reforms needed to ensure over the long run that our criminal justice system operates more fairly and effectively in the service of public safety," wrote White House Counsel Neil Eggleston in a blog post.
As he prepares to leave the White House in 32 days, the president is looking to cut into the backlog of clemency cases waiting on his desk, which totaled 1,937 pardon requests and 13,042 commutation petitions on Nov. 30.
"We need the president to pick up the pace of commutations before he leaves office," said Michael Collins, who works with the Drug Policy Alliance. "He is to be applauded for his actions thus far, but we know that the next occupant of the White House is unsympathetic to the cause of mass incarceration, and to the plight of those serving unjust sentences in federal prison."
Indeed, President-elect Donald Trump has spoken out against Obama's pardons -- of which both Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton granted more than the current president has -- and commutations, of which Obama has granted far more than the total from all presidents since Harry S. Truman -- saying Obama has freed "bad dudes," according to Business Insider.
"These are people who are out, they're walking the streets," Trump said of Obama's clemency acts at an August campaign rally. "Sleep tight, folks."