President Joe Biden is considering using his executive authority to grant clemency to people serving federal prison sentences for certain non-violent drug convictions, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday.
The question came up when Psaki was asked about plans for federal inmates who were released to home confinement during the pandemic and are now expected to return back to prison. Some 4,000 federal offenders could soon be obliged to return to prison.
“We are working hard every day to reform our justice system in order to strengthen families, boost our economy and give people a chance at a better future,” Psaki said.
Biden: Reduce Mass Incarceration And Racial Disparity In Drug Arrests
“As part of this, the president is deeply committed to reducing incarceration, helping people successfully reenter society. And he has said too many people are incarcerated—too many are black and brown,” Psaki told reporters. “And he is therefore exploring multiple avenues to provide relief to certain nonviolent drug offenders, including through the use of his clemency power.”
Weldon Angelos, a leading criminal justice advocate and music producer who served nearly 13 years in federal prison after being sentenced to 55 years in a high-profile marijuana case involving possession of less than one ounce of weed, said the President should issue pardons for cannabis prisoners as promised.
"Candidate Biden promised he would take action and use his pardon power to release those serving prison time for marijuana and pardon their felony convictions. Based on our conversations with the administration and the White House counsel, we feel confident that there will be action here soon," Angelos told Benzinga.
Biden, as Angelos pointed out, campaigned on expunging prior cannabis records and respecting the rights of states to set their own laws on cannabis legalization. Although there are at least five White House staffers fired from their jobs over marijuana usage in April, who might beg to differ that the President has changed much from the days when he supported some of the country’s harshest drug laws.
But Angelos says he's cautiously optimistic that the administration is heading in the right direction, although sending people back to prison after they've been at home during Covid seems unreasonable.
"Those serving time on home confinement shouldn’t have to worry about going back to prison after they have already rebuilt their lives and were already deemed fit for release. Biden should grant clemency to all of them without delay," Angelos concluded.
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