Biden Admin. Uses Presidential Clemency Powers for the First Time To Commemorate “Second Chance Month”

The Biden administration is ushering in a series of clemency acts meant to temper re-offending rates and facilitate a more seamless re-entry process for incarcerated people.

Dr. Victoria A. Phillips of the NYC Department of Corrections Young Adult Task Force participates in a hunger strike rally near the Rikers Island jail complex on January 13, 2022, in Queens, New York. Credit: Getty Images
Dr. Victoria A. Phillips of the NYC Department of Corrections Young Adult Task Force participates in a hunger strike rally near the Rikers Island jail complex on January 13, 2022, in Queens, New York. Credit: Getty Images

U.S. President Joe Biden released a statement marking “Second Chance Month,” in which he announced plans to pardon three individuals “who have demonstrated their commitment to rehabilitation and are striving every day to give back and contribute to their communities.”

In the Tuesday statement, the president added that he also plans to commute 75 long-term sentences that people who committed non-violent drug offenses are still serving.

“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. 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,” Biden stated.

The Biden administration is taking several “new steps” aimed at curbing recidivism by creating new channels and metrics of support for those reentering society after periods of incarceration, which the statement mentions.

“A new collaboration between the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Labor to provide job training; new grants for workforce development programs; greater opportunities to serve in federal government; expanded access to capital for people with convictions trying to start a small business; improved reentry services for veterans; and more support for health care, housing, and educational opportunities.”

Biden’s announcement comes amid a spate of calls for stronger presidential action to address racial and criminal justice reform and issues pertaining to communities of color, per the New York Times. The Times also reported that Biden’s efforts are an ostensible grasp at rectifying the longstanding wrongs catalyzed by a bill he sponsored in 1994, known colloquially as the “crime bill,” which many critics, including the ACLU, argue contributed heavily to America’s mass incarceration plight.

Among those who will be pardoned are Abraham W. Bolden Sr., 86, who is a Black, JFK-appointed former Secret Service agent convicted in connection to attempting to sell a Secret Service file, as well as Betty Jo Bogans, 51, of Houston, Texas, and Dexter Eugene Jackson, 52, of Athens, Georgia, for nonviolent drug offenses.


 

Donald Trump was the first U.S. president to observe “Second Chance Month” in 2018, in a bipartisan resolution. Trump’s First Step Act scaled back mandatory minimum sentencing, observed early release for nonviolent offenders, and created greater judiciary flexibility in regards to sentencing, CNN reported.