“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 wrote in a statement shared with CNN on Monday.
“During Second Chance Month, I am using my authority under the Constitution to uphold those values by pardoning and commuting the sentences of fellow Americans,” he continued.
Among those Biden will pardon is Abraham W. Bolden Sr., an 86-year-old former Secret Service agent and the first African American to serve on a presidential detail, according to a White House fact sheet. Bolden was convicted of charges related to attempting to sell a copy of a Secret Service file, though witnesses for the prosecution later admitted to lying at the request of prosecutors. Per the fact sheet, Bolden maintains he ultimately “was targeted for prosecution in retaliation for exposing unprofessional and racist behavior within the U.S. Secret Service.”
Biden will also pardon Betty Jo Bogans, 51, of Houston and Dexter Eugene Jackson, 52, of Athens, Georgia, for nonviolent drug offenses, and will commute the sentences of 75 nonviolent drug offenders — a move that a senior administration official told reporters “reflects the President’s broader commitment to reform our justice system and address racial disparities.”
“The President believes that there (are) too many people serving unduly long sentences for nonviolent drug crimes, a disproportionate number of whom are Black and brown,” the official said Monday. “The President is also committed to using his clemency power to provide relief to individuals who are serving long sentences that they could no longer receive today, because of changes in the law, including the First Step Act, which reduced mandatory minimum sentences for certain nonviolent drug offenses.”
New initiatives to ease reentry
In concert with Monday’s announcement, the Biden administration will also unveil “a comprehensive strategy that expands Incarceration to Employment opportunities,” including new programs from the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor, the Small Business Administration, the Office of Personnel Management, the Department of Transportation, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Education Department and the Department of Commerce.
In an effort to ease reentry efforts for the formerly incarcerated, the Departments of Justice and Labor will allocate $145 million in funding over the next two years “to provide job skills training and individualized employment and reentry plans for people incarcerated in Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facilities, and to provide pathways for a seamless transition to employment and reentry support upon release,” according to a White House fact sheet.
In addition, the administration will tout $140 million in grant funding for job training and reentry programs and will order agencies to remove barriers to entry for the formerly incarcerated to receive federal funding, apply for jobs and participate in training programs.
“While today’s announcement marks important progress, my Administration will continue to review clemency petitions and deliver reforms that advance equity and justice, provide second chances, and enhance the wellbeing and safety of all Americans,” Biden said in a statement.