Biden grants pardons for some nonviolent drug offendersBy Yasmine Regester, Peacemaker Staff Writer / April 29, 2022
President Joe Biden commuted the sentences of 75 people with non-violent drug offenses and gave full pardons to three individuals on Tuesday, April 26. His actions were part of the national observation of “Second Chance Month,” which is intended to reaffirm the importance of helping people who were formerly incarcerated reenter society.
“America is a nation of laws and second chances, redemption and rehabilitation. Elected officials on both sides of the aisle, faith leaders, civil rights advocates, and law enforcement leaders agree that our criminal justice system can and should reflect these core values that enable safer and stronger communities,” Biden shared in a statement on Monday.
According to White House officials, a third of Tuesday’s commuted individuals would receive a significantly lower sentence if they were charged with the same offense today. Biden issued full pardons to three individuals, who he said, “demonstrated their commitment to rehabilitation and are striving every day to give back and contribute to their communities.” Among the three pardoned were:
- Abraham Bolden, an 86-year-old former U.S. Secret Service Agent and the first African American to serve on a presidential detail. In 1964, Bolden was charged with offenses related to “attempting to sell a copy of a secret service file.” He has steadfastly maintained his innocence, arguing that he was targeted for prosecution in retaliation for exposing unprofessional and racist behavior within the U.S. Secret Service. Bolden has received numerous honors and awards for his ongoing work to speak out against the racism he faced in the Secret Service in the 1960s, and his courage in challenging injustice.
- Betty Jo Bogans, a 51-year-old Houston, Texas woman convicted in 1998 of possession with the intent to distribute crack cocaine when she was caught attempting to transport the drugs.
- Dexter Jackson, a 52-year-old man, who was previously convicted in 2002 for allowing the use of his business, then a pool hall, to facilitate the distribution of marijuana in Athens, Georgia. Since his release, Jackson has converted his business into a cell-phone repair service and hired local high school students through a program that seeks to provide young adults with work experience. He has also worked to build and renovate homes in a community that lacks quality affordable housing.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) published rule changes in January 2022 that would allow persons to earn ‘time served’ credit based on completing certain programs, which could lead up to 8,000 individuals now eligible for transfer to home confinement, halfway houses or supervised release in the coming months.
In addition to the pardons, the Biden-Harris Administration announced plans to create and invest in government partnerships to expand incarceration to employment opportunities, assistance for reentry, educational pathways and funding support of small business creation for formerly incarcerated persons.
Also calling it a crime reducing strategy, these proposed actions come from the Biden administration’s June 2021 plan to combat gun violence by implementing preventative measures to reduce violent crime and attack the root causes of crime, particularly in underserved communities. A key pillar of that plan was ensuring reentry and employment opportunities for people returning home from incarceration.
The Biden administration also noted that the bipartisan plan addresses many different values such as reentry into society, racial equity, bringing families and communities back together, reducing crime and recidivism.
“During Second Chance Month, I am using my authority under the Constitution to uphold those values by pardoning and commuting the sentences of fellow Americans,” said President Biden.
According to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, each year, more than 600,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons. More than two-thirds of prisoners are rearrested within three years of their release and half are reincarcerated.
According to the White House statement, some of the new partnerships include a $145 million collaboration between the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Labor to provide job training and $140 million in new grants for workforce development programs; greater opportunities to serve in federal government; improved reentry services for veterans; and more support for health care, housing and educational opportunities.
The U.S. Department of Education selected 73 additional postsecondary schools to expand its Second Chance Pell Initiative. The expansion of the program into these schools will provide access to thousands of additional formerly incarcerated students. The Small Business Administration (SBA) also announced it will publish policy changes that remove barriers to allow people with nonviolent offenses to gain access to capital to start a business.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is proposing to establish a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) of six months post-release for Medicare for people who missed an enrollment period while incarcerated.
Biden said, “While today’s announcement marks important progress, my administration will continue to review clemency petitions and deliver reforms that advance equity and justice, provide second chances and enhance the wellbeing and safety of all Americans.”