President Barack Obama has commuted the sentences of 872 people since taking office. 11,253 petitions for clemency are still pending as of Oct. 6, and many on the list are hopeful the president will get to them before he leaves office, according to The Hill.
Obama has commuted 688 inmates' sentences in 2016 so far, more than the previous 11 presidents put together.
To qualify for the clemency initiative, nonviolent, low-level offenders who have served at least 10 years of their federal sentences must have demonstrated good behavior while jailed and have no significant criminal history or a history of violence.
There is no guarantee the next administration will continue with Obama's clemency initiative. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said the Department of Justice is confident it will get through applications that were submitted by Aug. 31.
Those on the list and their families remain hopeful. A 61-year-old Alice Johnson, who has been jailed for 20 years on a nonviolent drug offense, said, "By all indications, I'm a perfect candidate for it."
Ebony Underwood said her father William Underwood has served 28 years of his sentence for his first offense, drug conspiracy.
"He did sell drugs to provide for his family as a young teen dad, but he left the business. He's an incredible guy that needs to be home," Underwood said.
Some inmates would have never thought to apply for clemency before the initiative was announced in 2014, according to Brittany Byrd, an attorney for #cut50, a prison reform campaign group.
"This is a party we never thought we'd even get invited to attend and we were, and now we're waiting to get in," Byrd said.
Thomas Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, believes the program releases dangerous criminals.
"These are not people picked up for smoking pot on a street corner," Fitton said. "These are key figures in major drug operations."
White House chief counsel Neil Eggleston praised the program for giving some offenders a second chance, according to The Hill. He said, "These are individuals — many of whom made mistakes at a young age — who have diligently worked to rehabilitate themselves while incarcerated."
One inmate has refused Obama's clemency. USA Today reported Arnold Ray Jones would be free in two years if he completes the clemency's drug-treatment program — but he might be free on good behavior if he stays until April 2019.
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