Barack Obama ended his presidency having granted clemency to more people convicted of federal crimes than any chief executive in 64 years. But he also received far more requests for clemency than any U.S. president on record, largely as a result of an initiative set up by his administration to shorten prison terms for nonviolent federal inmates convicted of drug crimes.
Overall, Obama granted clemency to 1,927 individuals, a figure that includes 1,715 commutations and 212 pardons. That’s the highest total for any president since Harry S. Truman, who granted clemency 2,044 times – including 1,913 pardons, 118 commutations and 13 remissions – during his nearly eight years in office, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Department of Justice statistics.
Clemency refers to multiple forms of presidential mercy. The two most common are commutations, which completely or partially reduce sentences for those in prison or on community supervision, and pardons, which forgive past crimes and restore civil rights. Two less-common forms are remissions, which reduce financial penalties associated with convictions, and respites, which are temporary reprieves that are usually granted to inmates for medical reasons.