On Monday, during the White House’s year-end press conference, President Obama pardoned 78 people, bringing his total number up to 148, and commuted 153 sentences, resulting in “the most individual acts of clemency granted in a single day by any president in this nation’s history,” per a White House blog post. During his two terms, Obama has primarily focused on commutations, allowing offenders punished by harsher sentencing laws to get a second chance.
With the 78 pardons on Monday, the President nearly doubled his total pardons. Obama has been fairly light-handed with his pardon power—during George W. Bush’s two terms, 178 pardons were granted. Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan each issued nearly 400 pardons during their eight years in office.
Clemency and prison reform are certainly not new issues for the presidency—on Monday Obama’s White House counsel Neil Eggleston called on Congress for more comprehensive changes to the system.
“We must remember that clemency is a tool of last resort and that only Congress can achieve the broader reforms needed to ensure over the long run that our criminal justice system operates more fairly and effectively in the service of public safety,” Eggleston wrote.