Number of Pardons Granted by President Barack Obama

Barack Obama
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President Barack Obama granted 70 pardons during his two terms in office, according to the United States Department of Justice records. 

Obama, like other presidents before him, issued pardons to convicts who the White House said had "demonstrated genuine remorse and a strong commitment to being law-abiding, productive citizens and active members of their communities."

Many of the pardons granted by Obama were to drug offenders in what was seen as an attempt by the president to lessen what he perceived to be overly severe sentences in those types of cases.

Obama Focus on Drug Sentences

Obama has pardoned more than a dozen drug offenders convicted of using or distributing cocaine. He described the moves as an attempt to rectify disparities in the justice system that sent more African-American offenders to prison for crack-cocaine convictions.

Obama described as unfair the system that more harshly penalized crack-cocaine offenses compared to powder-cocaine distribution and use. 

In using his power to pardon these offenders, Obama called on lawmakers to ensure "taxpayer dollars are spent wisely, and that our justice system keeps its basic promise of equal treatment for all."

Comparison of Obama Pardons to Other Presidents

Obama issued 212 pardons during his two terms. He had denied 1,629 petitions for pardons.

The number of pardons issued by Obama was far fewer than the number granted by Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter.

In fact, Obama used his power to pardon relatively rarely in comparison with every other modern president.

Criticism Over Obama's Lack of Pardons

Obama has come under fire for his use, or lack of use, of the pardon, particularly in drug cases. 

Anthony Papa of the Drug Policy Alliance, author of "15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom," criticized Obama and pointed out that the president had exercised his authority to issue pardons for Thanksgiving turkeys almost as much as he had for convicts.

"I support and applaud President Obama’s treatment of turkeys," Papa wrote in November 2013. "But I have to ask the President: what about the treatment of the more than 100,000 thousand people who are incarcerated in the federal system because of the war on drugs? Surely some of these non-violent drug offenders deserve treatment equal to a turkey pardon."
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Murse, Tom. "Number of Pardons Granted by President Barack Obama." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Murse, Tom. (2021, February 16). Number of Pardons Granted by President Barack Obama. Retrieved from Murse, Tom. "Number of Pardons Granted by President Barack Obama." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 30, 2023).