When former President Barack Obama unveiled a program to grant executive clemency to thousands of drug offenders who received long mandatory sentences, numerous inmates sought clemency.
Texas inmate Arnold Ray Jones was one of more than 29,000 who sought release.
However, when Jones was offered presidential commutation in August, he changed his mind and refused it, according to a report in USA Today.
The media report said his change of mind highlighted the fact that the president’s clemency program came with strings. In Jones’ case it was the requirement to enroll in a residential drug treatment program.
USA Today reported taking part in a treatment program was a condition of 92 of Obama’s commutation grants. Jones was the first to turn it down.
Had he agreed to enroll, he would have been released from prison in two years. Jones still has six years left on an original sentence imposed in 2002 for drug trafficking. However, he earned time for good behavior which could see him getting out of the federal prison in Beaumont in Texas in April 2019, about eight months longer than if he had accepted Obama’s commutation.
Jones received clemency at the same time as 102 more federal inmates. USA Today highlighted inmate records that Jones submitted before his court case show. He used the drug crack cocaine regularly in the 12 months before his arrest. He said drug treatment programs he completed in the past had not been successful.
Clemency differs from a pardon. It’s not a full forgiveness from a crime. However, a commutation can shorten your prison sentence while leaving other consequences intact. You won’t lose your criminal record.
During his last year in office, Obama used commutations more but became increasingly creative about the conditions he attached to them. Unlike “time served” commutations, in which a prisoner is almost immediately released, the president’s later commutations carried more conditions like making sure drug offenders attended programs.
Tens of thousands of drug offenders have sought clemency since Obama announced the program in 2014. They fear it will be discontinued under his successor Donald Trump, reported The Intercept.
The article points out Trump chose Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions to be his attorney general. Sessions made a name for himself as an opponent of criminal justice reform and a champion of mandatory minimums.