In one more end-of-presidency act of clemency aimed at prisoners serving long sentences for drug-related offenses, President Obama announced Thursday that he is commuting the sentences of 330 prisoners. He has granted clemency to more people than any president since Harry S. Truman, and Thursday’s announcement was typical of how Obama’s approach to clemency has differed from that of his predecessors: Obama’s clemency is almost always given by freeing people from prison with commuted sentences, not pardoning people after their release.
On Tuesday, with less than a week left in office, Obama granted clemency to 273 federal inmates, including Chelsea Manning, the army intelligence analyst who was convicted in 2013 of disclosing sensitive information to WikiLeaks. Manning’s commutation was one of 209 that Obama made Tuesday; with the 330 from Thursday, his total number of commutations is now 1,715, more than any other president in history, according to the White House. Obama also issued 64 pardons this week.
Obama has granted dozens of pardons and commutations about once a month since August, and in December, he gave clemency to a record 231 federal inmates on a single day — a record that he broke on Tuesday and again on Thursday.
Although pardons are typically granted to people years after their release and serve as a formal gesture of forgiveness and a restoration of rights (such as voting for convicted felons), commutations can actually free people from prison….