Celebrities, Scholars and Activists Pressure Obama

“We do not know whether the next president will support clemency efforts or criminal justice reform,” says the letter.
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While in office President Obama has granted pardons to over a thousand federal prisoners, the vast majority of them serving sentences for nonviolent drug-related crimes, and many who were sentenced to life behind bars. These commutations are more than the past 11 presidents combined; still, a group of scholars, celebrities and community activists are calling on Obama to do more in his final days.

In the letter sent Tuesday more than 50 individuals called on President Obama to not only increase the number of commutations he’s granting, but to consider granting across-the-board clemency to everyone serving federal sentences for nonviolent drug crimes.

“While your administration continues to review individual petitions, we urge you to also determine that nonviolent offenders in certain extremely low-risk categories either deserve expedited review or should be granted clemency absent an individualized review,” states the letter.

The letter was signed by a wide group of celebrities, scholars and activists, including performer John Legend, representatives of the NAACP and numerous professors (including professors from Harvard and Yale); you can click here to view the full letter and all who signed it.

“But we do know that until January 20, you alone have the power to deliver both mercy and justice to those who deserve it.”

U.S. Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) also sent a letter to the president urging him to increase commutations in his final days.

“I would urge you to summon the maximum manpower at your disposal to vet commutations and pardons so that as many sentencing wrongs as possible may be corrected as thousands of incarcerated Americans who are serving unjust sentences may receive justice,” says Cohen.