Number of Pardons Granted By President Barack Obama

How Obama's Use of Pardons Compares to That of Other Presidents

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama. Mark Wilson / Getty Images News

President Barack Obama granted 70 pardons during his two terms in office, according to United States Department of Justice records. You can find a partial list of the people pardoned by Obama here.

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 22 pardons during his first term and 48 to date in his second term.

He had denied 1,333 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 the 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?"