WASHINGTON (CN) — Using his presidential clemency power for the first time, President Joe Biden announced three pardons Tuesday and commuted the sentences for 75 people convicted of nonviolent drug offenses.
The move comes on the heels of pressure from progressive or activist factions of the Democratic Party for Biden to reform the criminal justice system by way of presidential action and use pardon power to address systemic sentencing disparities that affect people of color and people who commit drug offenses.
One of the three people granted a presidential pardon is Abraham Bolden, a 86-year-old former Secret Service agent from Chicago who was the first Black man to serve on a presidential detail.
Bolden was charged in 1964 with attempting to sell a copy of a Secret Service file for $50,000. His first trial ended in a hung jury, but he was convicted after a second trial despite the fact that, according to the White House, several witnesses admitted they lied at the behest of the prosecution.
Throughout the years, Bolden has repeatedly maintained his innocence and asserted that his prosecution was retaliation for speaking up about misconduct among then-President John F. Kennedy's security detail and racism within the Secret Service.
Betty Jo Bogans, a 51-year-old woman from Houston, and Dexter Eugene Jackson, a 52-year-old man from Athens, Georgia, are also set to receive presidential pardons for nonviolent drug offenses of which they were convicted more than two decades ago.
Bogans, a single mother, served seven years for a 1998 conviction of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine, her first ever offense, due to laws at the time that set different penalties for crack and powder cocaine offenses. The White House said Bogans has remained employed since her release, even while undergoing cancer treatment.
Jackson was convicted in 2002 for allowing marijuana dealers to use his pool hall for drug transactions, although he was not personally involved with the drug business. He pleaded guilty back in 2002 to the charges and has since turned his business into a cellphone-repair shop that trains and employs young adults to prepare them for the workforce.
Biden also announced the reduction of sentences for 75 people convicted of nonviolent drug offenses.
"America is a nation of laws and second chances, redemption, and rehabilitation. Elected officials on both sides of the aisle, faith leaders, civil rights advocates, and law enforcement leaders agree that our criminal justice system can and should reflect these core values that enable safer and stronger communities," Biden said in a statement released by the White House.
In tandem with the grants of clemency, the White House unveiled new programs Tuesday aimed at providing support for people transitioning out of incarceration.
A new program will have the Departments of Justice and Labor working together to invest $145 million over the next two years to provide job training and reentry plans for people leaving federal prison.
The Department of Labor will also allocate $140 million in grants for programs providing mentorship, career advice and job training to young people and adults in the justice system.
Biden's efforts Tuesday stand in contrast to the use of clemency his predecessor; former President Donald Trump drew criticism for using his powers to protect political allies such as Steve Bannon, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone.
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