Senin, 27 Juli 2015

'Obama Eight' adjust to life after life sentences

WASHINGTON — One is a high school counselor. Two or three work in restaurants. Some can't find a job. Others have slipped into obscurity.
The Obama Eight, as they call themselves, don't fit into easy categories, except for this: They were all convicted of drug crimes, and they were among the first to have their sentences commuted by President Obama.
And as Obama prepares to issue even more commutations in the last months of his presidency — part of an aggressive attempt to use his pardon power to shorten long drug sentences — many of them say they feel the weight of criminal justice reform on their shoulders. If any one of them returns to prison, it could taint the clemency initiative and make it harder for other deserving inmates to be released, they say.
They've become leading voices for leniency, especially for drug crimes. Last year, many of them came to Washington to lobby members of Congress and meet with Pardon Attorney Deborah Leff, the Justice Department official whose job it is to make clemency recommendations to the president.
After nearly three years without commuting a single sentence, Obama has now issued 89 commutations as president. It's a record that still ranks as one of the "least merciful" in presidential history, said P.S. Ruckman Jr., a political scientist who blogs about the president's pardon power.
Of those 89, one died shortly after her release. 47 have yet to be released, while 21 were released Tuesday. The 46 sentences Obama commuted this month won't be completed until Nov. 10. (As recently as the Clinton administration, people whose sentences were commuted were released the same day.)
The other 20 are free. The Obama Eight have been out the longest, most of them a little more than a year.
In many ways, the challenges they face are not unlike anyone else released from prison after a long sentence. Finding a job, reuniting with relatives, getting a driver's license and adjusting to the speed of an Internet-driven world that barely existed when they were sent away.
"They have won the lottery of commutation from the president," said Julie Stewart of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, which has encouraged the president to use his clemency power to shorten long sentences. "I think clemency is an unbelievably random act that is a huge gift when you get it, and an utter devastation when you're denied."

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