The Power of the Pardon

Back in December, Obama actually did something good for the cause of liberty.  Yet, unsurprisingly, it did not get a lot of attention from the so-called mainstream media.  He commuted the sentences of eight federal inmates, each of whom had been in prison for at least 15 years for drug offenses.

One of those who got a commutation was Stephanie George.  She was just recently released from prison and there are pictures of her hugging her sister, just after regaining her freedom.

When Stephanie George was convicted 17 years ago, she had three young children.  She had to depend on her sister to raise the children while she was locked up.

Stephanie George was supposed to be locked up for life because of the ridiculous mandatory sentencing laws that exist in the U.S.  She was convicted of minor drug offenses in 1993.  When police found cocaine and equipment to make crack in 1996, George denied knowing about it, as the father of one of her children confessed to owning it.

While it wasn’t a clear-cut case, this just shows the absurdity of our so-called justice system.  Even if it had been her cocaine and even if she was making crack, is this really a reason to lock somebody up for the rest of her life?  There are murderers and rapists who get less severe punishments.

Who exactly gained by having this woman in prison?  It certainly wasn’t her kids.  It wasn’t her.  And there were no actual victims.  She wasn’t physically hurting anyone else.

This is not a defense of the woman’s actions whether she knew about the drugs or not.  But a lot of people make dumb mistakes in their lives.  If she wasn’t physically harming anyone or threatening anyone or stealing from anyone, then what is the point of locking her up?  And it is an absolute travesty that someone like this would be sentenced to life-without-parole.

Presidential Pardons

Obama has enjoyed wielding his power as president.  There has been no shortage of executive orders and other presidential dictates.  He keeps changing the Obamacare law without going through Congress.  Just because the law has taken on his name in conversation, it doesn’t mean it is legally permissible to just arbitrarily change parts of the law that weren’t working.

Contrast this with the presidential pardon, which is actually a power listed in the Constitution.  This is one of the few things where the president really holds a lot of power without having to go through Congress (legally speaking).

It is possible for the pardoning power to be abused.  Many people were upset at some of the Bill Clinton pardons that happened right before he left office.  Some people were upset when Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon.

The good news is that most people who are pardoned are not usually violent criminals.  It is even better when the people pardoned are victims of a legal code that locks up people for committing victimless “crimes”.

If a presidential candidate were to run on a platform of repealing all federal drug laws, he could actually essentially accomplish this on his first day in office.  He would just have to pardon all non-violent drug offenders in federal prison.  He could also say that anyone convicted of a federal drug crime would be instantly pardoned, as long as he is in office.

This could also be done for other victimless crimes or cases that involve overzealous prosecutors.

It is a shame that Stephanie George lost over 17 years of her life to a prison cell.  But at least there was enough public pressure to persuade Obama to do the right thing in commuting her sentence.  At least she will have a chance for freedom and redemption.  For once, Obama used his power to advance liberty instead of taking it away.