President Bush’s Jan. 19 commutations of former Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compeon should be commended as an act of mercy. The border agents received mandatory minimum sentences that the judge could not tailor to fit them or their crime. However, the border agents are not alone.
Thousands of first-time, low-level and nonviolent drug offenders are serving sentences just as long or longer. Many of them seek clemency each year, but President Bush granted less than a dozen commutations in his eight years in office. President Obama should grant many more. In his inaugural address, President Obama promised us government that works.
Mandatory minimums don’t. They create injustice, fill our prisons, cost taxpayers a fortune and don’t reduce crime. Warehousing these offenders costs an average of $40,000 per year, a huge sum that taxpayers cannot and should not be burdened with. The mandatory miniumum sentencing guidelines need to be repealed immediately.
Granting clemency to some deserving prisoners won’t fix everything, but President Obama should use commutations to begin a dialogue with Congress about how to get rid of mandatory minimums.