Only 138 commutations have been granted since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020

It took nearly 100 days into his second year in office for Biden to act on his promise and grant clemency to a single person. We go to the Prison Policy Initiative for an examination of states’ and federal government’s use of commutations, which reduce a person’s sentence.

Below are excerpts from the study.

Summary By: Natalie Mattson
Summary By: Natalie Mattson

The Study's Critical Points

April 26th, 2022: President Joe Biden commuted the federal sentences of 75 people convicted of “nonviolent” drug charges. The President has the executive power to grant commutations and other forms of clemency.

  • Many of the people receiving these commutations had already been released on house arrest due to COVID-19.
  • As of April 1st, 2022, there were around 15,000 applications for a commutation of sentences.
  • 10% fewer people were released from state and federal prisons in 2020 than 2019.
  • Compared to recent presidents (excluding President Obama), Biden’s commutation of 75 sentences is high. Presidential commutations were historically more common.
Prison Policy collected data on the commutation process of eight northeastern states.
  • 210 commutations were granted from 2005 to mid-2021 across all eight states.
  • 1 out of every 10,000 sentenced and imprisoned people across these states is granted commutation each year, an average of 13 people per year.
  • Connecticut had a 2.2% commutation grant rate from 2016 to 2017.
  • 24 people were granted commutations in Maine from 2005 to mid-2021.
  • There was no data on any commutations granted in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, or Vermont from 2005 to mid-2021.
  • 2010 was the last time a person has been granted a commutation in New Hampshire.
  • 37 out of 14,735 commutations have been granted in New York since 2005.
  • 7 commutations were granted in Pennsylvania between 2005 and 2018.

VISUAL Breakdown


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