Watch CBS News

Biden grants clemency to 16 nonviolent drug offenders

Biden outpaces Trump in March fundraising
Biden outpaces Trump in March fundraising 02:02

Washington — President Biden on Wednesday granted clemency to 16 people convicted of nonviolent drug offenses, pardoning 11 of them and commuting the sentences of the other five. 

The pardon recipients include a woman who has since earned her doctorate, a business owner and community members involved in their churches, while one of the commutation recipients will no longer have to serve a life prison sentence. 

In December, the president granted categorical pardons to thousands convicted of use and simple possession of marijuana in Washington, D.C., and on federal lands. 

Clemency is the overarching term that encompasses both pardons — the forgiveness of legal consequences stemming from a conviction — and commutations, which reduce prison sentences or eliminate other penalties. 

"America is a nation founded on the promise of second chances," the president said in a written statement. "During Second Chance Month, we reaffirm our commitment to rehabilitation and reentry for people returning to their communities post incarceration. We also recommit to building a criminal justice system that lives up to those ideals and ensures that everyone receives equal justice under law. That is why today I am announcing steps I am taking to make this promise a reality."

Mr. Biden said his administration will "continue to review clemency petitions and deliver reforms in a manner that advances equal justice, supports rehabilitation and reentry, and provides meaningful second chances."

One of the people Mr. Biden pardoned Wednesday is Katrina Polk, a 54-year-old Washington, D.C., resident who pleaded guilty to a nonviolent drug offense at 18. Since she was released, Polk has earned her PhD in public policy and administration, and she now advocates for the elderly, the White House said. 

Another pardon recipient is Jason Hernandez of McKinney, Texas, a 47-year-old man convicted of several nonviolent drug offenses beginning when he was a juvenile. The White House said he would have received a significantly shorter sentence under today's laws. He now runs a nonprofit that transformed the store outside of which he used to sell drugs. The organization provides quality, affordable food for his neighborhood. 

Alexis Sutton, a 33-year-old woman from New Haven, Connecticut, also received a pardon for her nonviolent drug offense. She is taking classes toward her goal of becoming a registered nurse, and is an active participant in her local church, the White House said. 

The president also reduced the sentences of five people convicted of cocaine-related offenses.

In 2013, Jophaney Hyppolite of Miami was given a sentence of life imprisonment and 10 years of supervised release for charges related to manufacturing cocaine base. The president lowered that sentence to 30 years, keeping the 10-year term of supervised release in place. 

Presidents often wait until they are close to the end of their term to issue slews of pardons or more controversial acts of clemency. 

The Biden administration has expressed a desire to make consequences for nonviolent drug offenses more racially equitable, recognizing the disparities among minority and particularly Black communities. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.