“America is a nation of second chances and I believe these folks deserve their second chance,” said President Obama in a speech he released this week on Facebook.
While writing pardons may be a favorite pastime of presidents about to reach the end of their term, Obama has taken it a little too far. This Monday he decided to commute the sentences of 46 drug dealers as part of his effort to improve the country’s criminal justice system and to “make our community safer.”
Was this unprecedented action a response to the rising nationwide distrust in police?
Many of those 46 men and women now walking the streets had been sentenced to 20 or more years; 14 of them had been sentenced to life. Obama believes that these punishments were far too severe for individuals who were “only engaged in non-violent drug offenses.”
In his speech, Obama spoke about the “inequities in the criminal justice system,” and stated that the $80+ billion we spend annually on incarcerations is too high. The incarceration rate is falling and it’s up to everyone – both Democrats and Republicans – to work together to find a way to make America’s criminal justice system work more effectively.
Although his reasons for liberating specific individuals are unclear, the vast majority of those released were cocaine dealers. Just to give you an idea:
Telisha Rachette Watkins was convicted in Charlotte, NC in October 2007. Her offense: “Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base.”
Jackie Johnson was convicted in Townsend, DE in January 2007. His offense: “Possession with the intent to distribute more than 50 grams of a cocaine base.”
Jermaine Lee Osborne was convicted in Roanoke, VA in May 2006. His offense: “Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute at least 50 grams of cocaine base.”
Marcus H. Richards was convicted in Miami in June 2005. His offense: “Conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and more than 50 grams of cocaine base.”
Although restoring a sense of fairness in our justice system and spending taxpayer dollars more effectively are admirable goals, I’m not sure releasing 46 drug dealers was the best way to start.