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January 14, 2013 (Baltimore Sun)

Obama's neglect of clemency

In his column, Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., former Maryland governor and member of Congress, cites his gubernatorial record on granting pardons as credibility for critiquing President Barack Obama for what he describes as “the surprising lack of interest in clemency demonstrated by the former community organizer now occupying the White House.”

Ehrlich writes: “The last week of 2012 saw the Office of the Inspector General torch the president's pardon attorney regarding the inappropriate withholding of information that could have led to the release of Clarence Aaron, an African-American college student who was given a life sentence for a first time, nonviolent drug offense in 1993.

“The dysfunction described in the Aaron case is not new, nor should it be surprising. After all, the office is located within the same agency (Department of Justice) that prosecutes cases in the first place. Further, critical views of the pardon office's bureaucracy have been around for years.

“In his book "Decision Points," former President George W. Bush recounts his frustration with the pardon process in the context of the Scooter Libby (Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff) obstruction of justice case. The president's advice to incoming President Barack Obama on Inauguration Day, 2009: "Announce a pardon policy early on, and stick to it." Alas, the Obama administration has shown no such interest in fixing a broken system.”

The Sentencing Project ranked Maryland as one of the "13 most active pardon states" in the country when Ehrlich was governor.

Issue Area(s): Sentencing Policy, Collateral Consequences