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Obama Commutes Sentences for 46 Drug Offenders [FEATURE]

This article was published in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

President Obama announced today he has granted clemency to dozens of federal inmates, the vast majority of them sentenced under draconian crack cocaine laws. More than 30,000 federal prisoners have applied for clemency since the Obama administration issued a call for them to do so last year.

President Obama (whitehouse.gov)
The remaining clemency applications are still being processed, but many more could be released before Obama's term expires in January 2017. The Justice Department says it prioritizes applications from low-level, nonviolent offenders who have already serve at least 10 years behind bars and who would have been sentenced to much less time if convicted for those same offenses today.

"We spend over $80 billion incarcerating people, often times who've only been engaged in nonviolent drug offenses," Obama said in his announcement of the commutations. "I'm commuting the sentences of 46 prisoners who were convicted many years or in some cases decades ago. These men and women were not hardened criminals, but the overwhelming majority had been sentenced to at least 20 years. Fourteen of them had been sentenced to life for nonviolent drug offenses so their punishments didn't fit the crime. I believe there's a lot more we can do to restore the sense of fairness at the heart of our justice system and to make sure our tax dollars are well spent even as we are keeping our streets safe."

Drug offenders account for nearly half of the more than 200,000 doing time in federal prisons. That is a more than 20-fold increase in the number of federal drug prisoners in 1980, just before the start of the Reagan-era war on drugs.

The federal prison at Butner, North Carolina, (bop.gov)
Today's commutations of 46 sentences bring to 90 the number of people to whom Obama has granted clemency during his administration. While more are expected, administration spokesmen made clear that merely wielding the clemency power is not enough.

"While I expect the President will issue additional commutations and pardons before the end of his term, it is important to recognize that clemency alone will not fix decades of overly punitive sentencing policies," said White House counsel Neil Eggleston.

This is just the beginning of a week heavy on criminal justice issues for the president. Tomorrow, Obama is expected to make a major speech on criminal justice reform before the NAACP, and on Thursday, he is scheduled to visit a federal prison, which would make him the first president to ever do so.

"I am elated that President Obama continues to use his executive powers to grant freedom to those drug offenders who have served draconian sentences," said Anthony Papa, media relations manager of the Drug Policy Alliance, who was granted clemency in New York State in 1997 after serving 12 years under the notorious Rockefeller Drug Laws. "I hope this sends a message to governors of states that have the power to grant clemencies to those who deserve a chance to be reunited with their families."

The United States remains the world leader in incarceration. (nadcp.org)
The president sent a letter to the prisoners whose sentences he commuted: "I am granting your application because you have demonstrated the potential to turn your life around," he wrote. "Now it is up to you to make the most of this opportunity. It will not be easy, and you will confront many who doubt people with criminal records can change. Perhaps even you are unsure of how you will adjust to your new circumstances."

He urged the soon-to-be-freed prisoners to lead by example.

"Remember that you have the capacity to make good choices. By doing so, you will affect not only your life, but those close to you. You will also influence, through your example, the possibility that others in your circumstances get their own second chance in the future. I believe in your ability to prove the doubters wrong, and change your life for the better."

Washington, DC
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Obama finally comes around

Shortly after President Obama took office, I recall Ethan Nadelmann expressing optimism that the new leader had great potential for reforming our drugs laws. For the next six years, I saw little evidence of hope and change in America's war on drugs. The raids continued on the MM dispensaries, federal prosecutions for marijuana offenses continued particularly in California under Melinda Haag. AG Holder eventually lighten the enforcement against the states that voted to legalize pot. Today announcement of commutations for 46 drug offenders is a breath of fresh air. Hopefully, this decision will mark the beginning of a wider reform of the criminal justice system.

When he releases drug/poison

When he releases drug/poison distributors from prison, what messages is Mr. Obama sending to mature, responsible, loving, caring moms and dads living in struggling communities and neighborhoods?

What is Mr. Obama saying to single-moms and/or dads who everyday are faced with stresses and challenges of keeping their children safe from physical or emotional harm, and the anti-social influences of The Street culture that a irresponsible Baltimore mom failed to protect her young teen son from?

*Restore Pride In Parenting; End Child Abuse & Neglect*

*Victims of Horrific Child Abuse; Young American Kendrick Lamar Boldly Speaks About Child Abuse, The Seeds of Poverty and Crime*

With all due respect to my American neighbors of African descent, the oppression of humans that led to racism and slavery has been replaced with a new form of human oppression that impedes and deprives many American children from experiencing a safe, fairly happy American kid childhood.

In his 2015 Grammy award winning Rap Performance titled "I", Kendrick Lamar writes, *"I've been dealing with depression ever since an adolescent."*

During a January 20, 2011 LAWeekly interview (Google search) Kendrick, born in 1987, the same year songwriter Suzanne Vega wrote a song about child abuse and *VICTIM DENIAL* that was nominated for a Grammy award, he told the interviewer:

*"Lamar's parents moved from Chicago to Compton in 1984 with all of $500 in their pockets. "My mom's one of 13 [THIRTEEN] siblings, and they all got SIX kids, and till I was 13 everybody was in Compton," he says."*

*"I'm 6 years old, seein' my uncles playing with shotguns, sellin' dope in front of the apartment. My moms and pops never said nothing, 'cause they were young and living wild, too. I got about 15 stories like 'Average Joe.'"*


It seems evident to me Kendrick identified the source of his depression, the roots of poverty, the child abuse/maltreatment that prevented him, his brothers, sisters, cousins, neighborhood friends, elementary and JHS classmates from enjoying a fairly happy, safe Average Joe and Josie American kid childhood.

Seems the adults responsible for raising the children in Kendrick's immediate and extended family placed obstacles in their children's way, causing their kids to deal with challenges and stresses young minds are not prepared to deal with...*nor should they or any other children be exposed to and have to deal with.*

It seems evident to me these PARENTAL INTRODUCED obstacles and challenges cause some developing children's minds to become tormented and go haywire, not knowing *OR NOT CARING ABOUT* right from wrong...because as the mature, young victims of child abuse realize their parents introduced them to a life of pain and struggle, totally unlike the mostly safe, happy life the media showed them many American kids were enjoying. *RESENTMENT*

I cannot speak for anyone else, but if I was raised in Kendrick's family I would most likely be silently peeved at my parents for being immature irresponsible "living wild" adults who deprived me of a safe, happy childhood.

Though like many victims of child abuse, most likely I would deny my parents harmed me, seeking to blame others for the pain my parents caused to me.

I wonder how little Kendrick and his classmates reacted when their elementary school teacher introduced the DARE presenter and they learned about the real dangers of drugs and how they harm people, including their parents?

In a Oct 25, 2012, LAWeekly interview (Google search) Kendrick talks about being a SIX-YEAR-OLD child who was not able to trust and rely on his mom...essentially he speaks about being emotionally abandon by his own mom.

Kendrick shares his experiences about feeling lonely, which if you read up on Cognitive Dissonance that Dr. Joy Degruy writes about in her book, *"Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America's Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing (PTSS)"*, is it perfectly understandable why Kendrick feels lonely.

Search Google "Post traumatic Disorder Dr Joy de Gruy Leary - YouTube" to watch a very disturbing yet enlightening 1:21:00 lecture about "Cognitive Dissonance" and how it harms developing kids like Kendrick. Dr. DeGruy does an excellent job describing how "CD" helped perpetuate the human ignorances we call racism and slavery.

Dr. DeGruy also describes how using our common sense, we should be able to understand how "CD" can negatively impact developing children like Kendrick Lamar (born 1987), as well as Tupac Shakur (born 1971) and Shawn 'Jay Z Carter' (born 1969), to name a few more victims of horrific child abuse.

Early in my police career when I was assigned to the Brooklyn community *Shawn 'Jay Z' Carter* raps/writes about attempting destroy by selling poison to people living and working in his community, and rapping about engaging in extremely harmful anti-social behaviors designed to protect his drug operation from rival gangs in adjoining neighborhoods, a few of my training officers advised me to be prepared to experience "culture shock."

I did find out what "culture shock" is, though it was not a culture of violence and harmful anti-social activities many were insinuating I would be shocked by.

The aspect of this Brooklyn, NY community that *shocked me to the core* was witnessing children being emotionally scarred by a *"American Sub-Culture of Child Abuse/Neglect"* that Kendrick Lamar raps and speaks about some twenty-five years after I first witnessed the  *"American Sub-Culture of Child Abuse/Neglect"* that today CONTINUES emotionally damaging many developing children and their communities.

I personally witnessed the emotional trauma and physical pain a young, neglected, unsupervised, Shawn 'Jay Z' Carter is responsible for causing, and its aftermath, leaving a community populated by mostly peaceful people fearing for their safety on a 24/7 basis, which are the hours Shawn's crew/gang were selling community harming substances.

During the twelve years I served this community I met hundreds of peaceful people who were just as shaken, upset and deeply disturbed as I was by the daily displays of violence and other anti-social activities mostly caused by teens and adults who were victims of childhood abuse and neglect.

I was lucky, at the end of my workday I could leave the community, returning to a more peaceful residential community were concerns for me and my family's safety were significantly lower.

However, virtually all of my civilian co-workers, mostly loving, competent moms living in this community were not as fortunate. They were burdened with stresses and challenges my parents did not face to any significant degree.

The added stresses and challenges my peaceful co-workers faced was preventing their children from being negatively influenced by abused/neglected/unsupervised children being raised and nurtured by immature, "living wild" teen moms and young women who irresponsibly begin building families before they acquired the skills, maturity, PATIENCE and means to independently provide for their family of developing children.

Reading Kendrick's background, if you have any compassion for kids, you have to feel horrible for a *FIRST GRADE school child* who can't depend on his mom to be there for him, a mom who exposes him to things *kids should not have to witness and deal with in their young minds.*

Kendrick has taken a bold first step by revealing his mother (and father) made poor choices that deprived him, his brothers and sisters from experiencing a safe, fairly happy Average Joe or Josie American kid childhood...

*YET NO ONE IS LISTENING TO KENDRICK....WHY?*

*#ProtectKidsFromIrresponsibleCaregivers*

46 ain't enough

How many people are languishing in Amerikan prison's for doing far less than Obama himself?For this President,with his bragging about cannabis and cocaine use.He would have to pardon every person in US jails prisons and pens for drug possession charges,with an apology,for it to do anything like balancing the book on Kharma.He could issue a presidential writ to legalise cannabis,tomorrow if he seriously felt any responsibility for imprisoning people for doing what he has himself admitted to doing.The hypocrisy of the man is astounding.

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