MANSFIELD: The President and Pardons

Now that Trump has discovered that he can do one thing without asking anyone’s permission, he’s going to fixate on issuing pardons. He doesn’t need to ask Congress and the Supreme Court can’t review his decisions. He’s about to have a field day exercising unchallenged power.

While some folks at the alphabet soup of federal law enforcement agencies — such as the FBI, CIA, DEA and ICE — are flat-out having conniptions (along with more conservative members of the judiciary), there are people from across the political spectrum that are applauding his pardons … albeit silently at this point.

What they know is that we impose the harshest sentences in the world — bar none. The amount of time judges are required to hand out under federal sentencing guidelines causes citizens of other so-called civilized societies to scratch their heads in wonderment. The world knows what we will never admit: If race were removed from the equation sentences would indeed be fairer in this country.

Now that Trump has commuted the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old black woman serving a life sentence for a nonviolent drug crime (he met with Kim Kardashian who is championing Johnson’s case), top members of the White House staff are resisting the move. Your guess is as good as mine as to what grounds they are citing as reasons for their resistance, but if I had to guess, their concern is that Trump will pardon other prisoners that should have been released years — and in some cases decades — ago.

Will Trump turn this newfound power into political theater by pardoning the likes of Rod Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor who is currently serving a 14-year sentence for convictions in 2010 related to trying to sell President Barack Obama’s Senate seat, as well Martha Stewart, the television personality that he considers a personal friend? Of course he is. But then he just might start undoing the grave wrongs that’s been done to thousands upon thousands of fathers, mothers and bread winners that have been sent to prison for ridiculously long sentences, literally destroying families.

In part I blame Barack Obama for this, When he was leaving office after his second term he could have corrected the wrongs done by our overly harsh drug laws, but similar to Bill Clinton he wimped out on the issue. You have to ask both of them as to why. But both should have given blanket pardons to all nonviolent offenders that have served over five years. That’s the length of sentence Jimmy Dimora and other petty crooks like him should have received, not one that put them in the category with rapists and murderers.

Over the last four decades, in shameless efforts to assure their own reelection, our politicians try to outdo each other by convincing Middle America they will be protected from the “other” by the enactment of tougher and tougher laws. But in the process have succeeded in creating a criminal justice system that truly is the shame of the world. If Trump rectifies this grave wrong (even if his actions are self-serving), all I can say is, “more power to him.”

From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.

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