Press Releases

Conyers & Jackson Lee Laud Obama’s Historic Presidential Commutations

Washington, DC, January 20, 2017

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and House Judiciary Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) released the following statements after the White House announced the commutation of the sentences of hundreds of individuals this week, which brings President Obama’s record to 1,715 commutations in total:

Ranking Member Conyers said, “One of the great powers of the presidency is the constitutional authority to grant clemency for federal criminal offences.  President Obama has shown both great compassion and a sense of justice in granting clemency, a process informed by the great work of the Clemency Project.  As a society, we demand accountability for criminal offenses that victimize our citizens but, as the founders recognized, we must also address instances of punishment that are too lengthy, no longer serve the interests of justice, and are sometimes counterproductive from the standpoint of public safety.  Proper exercise of this power is a sign of strength, which President Obama has demonstrated in granting more commutations than any other president in our nation’s history.  However, it remains the job of Congress to help prevent unjust sentences in the first place by enacting strong criminal justice reform, including eliminating mandatory minimum sentences.  I look forward to the continued effort to do this in the new Congress.”

“I applaud President Obama’s commutation of sentences of more than 400 individuals this week – who were all victims of unjust sentencing,” said Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Jackson Lee.  “Nearly all of these men and women would have been released and contributing back to society already had they been convicted under today’s laws or reform proposals. I welcome and applaud the commutations of the sentences of these individuals.  Incarcerating people for unwarranted lengths of time serves no constructive purpose.  The President has recognized this, as has Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and I am pleased that the Administration’s Clemency Project continues to address the multitude of cases in which sentence reductions are appropriate.  Of course, the need to engage in such a broad review of sentences exists largely because our sentencing laws and policies, particularly for drug offenses, urgently need to be changed.  We need to eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing and let judges impose appropriate sentences based on the facts and circumstances of each case, and we should eliminate the higher penalties for crack cocaine relative to powder cocaine offenses.  I am heartened that there is a growing, bipartisan recognition of the problem of over incarceration and I hope this will lead to sentencing reform this Congress.”