ACLU Applauds President Biden’s Clemency Announcement

Announcement Will Reunite 11 Families in a Small Step Toward Justice

December 22, 2023 9:45 pm

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WASHINGTON — President Biden today announced that his administration will commute the sentences of 11 people impacted by the failed war on drugs — people serving unjustly long sentences due to the disparity in sentencing between powder and crack cocaine. The president also announced that he will pardon more who were convicted of marijuana possession under federal laws and the laws of the District of Columbia.

The historic announcement is a small step toward justice, bringing President Biden closer to meeting the American Civil Liberties Union’s goal of bringing 5o,000 people home through the power of categorical clemency.

Cynthia W. Roseberry, director of the Justice Division at the ACLU, had the following reaction to today’s announcement:

“With today’s announcement, President Biden is doing what most other presidents have failed to do: taking needed action to confront the harms of the war on drugs. A war that devastated whole communities by incarcerating people for longer sentences for crimes involving crack compared to powder cocaine, even though there is no chemical difference between the two substances and for marijuana possession. By granting clemency to people who were targeted by this racially unjust sentencing policy, President Biden sends a strong message about the power of redemption. People are not disposable. When people have second chances to rebuild their lives, it leads to better family outcomes, better community outcomes, and better workforce outcomes.

“While executive clemency is a tool to correct past injustices, there is much more to be done. The Justice Department directive to federal prosecutors to not pursue higher sentences for crack can be revoked by a future administration. If we are going to achieve permanent, meaningful change to a sentencing law that is rooted in racism and unfairness, then we need Congress to pass the EQUAL Act.

“We applaud President Biden’s historic act of clemency and hope it is just the start of many more to come, including for non-citizens.”

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