Joe Biden’s Claiming This Is "Important Progress." But Is It Really?

president biden sitting down signing orders
Zain Murdock
May 5, 2022

On April 26, 2022, months into his second year in office, President Biden announced he was granting three pardons and 75 commutations to people impacted by incarceration. But who are these people? And is this action less progressive than he’s making it seem?

To clarify, a “commutation” changes a current prison sentence – like releasing someone early, or turning a death sentence into a life sentence. 

This applies to those 75 people, who were serving time for “nonviolent drug offenses” – but there are actually nearly 20 THOUSAND federal commutation applications still pending! And beyond that context, their “freedom” isn’t what it seems like.

Most of the people Biden is “releasing” are ALREADY on home confinement because of the COVID-19 CARES Act. Plus, most of their sentences won't actually expire until April 2023 or later – and they may still have to deal with fines and potentially decades of parole. It’s the barest of the bare minimum. 

And this isn’t just a federal issue.

In the Prison Policy Initiative’s sample study at the state level, there was only ONE commutation for every TEN THOUSAND imprisoned people each year.

The criminal legal system makes releasing people – even the people THEY acknowledge should be released – overly complicated. But they also peddle these symbolic victories as progressive acts, and the best they can do, when they could actually do SO much more.

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