Biden Grants Clemency to 16 Non-Violent Drug Offenders

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden used his executive powers to grant clemency to more than a dozen individuals who served sentences for non-violent drug charges, following similar actions to address racial disparities in criminal justice with his broader civil-rights agenda largely stalled.

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A total of 16 people will have their sentences pardoned or commuted after Biden hailed April as “Second Chance Month.”

“These pardons and commutations reflect my overarching commitment to addressing racial disparities and improving public safety,” Biden said in a Wednesday statement. “We also recommit to building a criminal justice system that lives up to those ideals and ensures that everyone receives equal justice under law.”

The president has tapped his clemency powers and other executive actions to advance reforms on criminal justice, seeking to deliver on a centerpiece of his 2020 campaign for the presidency after the nationwide protests that year following the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. A congressional bill named in Floyd’s honor passed the House early in Biden’s term, but failed to advance in the Senate.

Civil-rights allies have expressed disappointment at Biden’s use of his clemency powers, which they see as sparing, amid broader angst over the lack of progress on criminal justice reform and other priorities. That has contributed to Biden’s weaker polling numbers among Black Americans, a key Democratic bloc he will need to turn out in November in his presidential election rematch against Donald Trump.

The recipients of Wednesday’s action, consisting of 11 pardons and 5 commutations, include a Texas man named Jason Hernandez, who was convicted of non-violent drug offenses while still a juvenile. He now runs a nonprofit that transformed the store in front of which he used to sell drugs into a food market.

Another pardon recipient is Louisiana businessman Jesse Mosley, who pleaded guilty to non-violent drug offenses at the age of 19. Since his release, Mosley started a business and manages rental properties.

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