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Biden“s pardons show focus on easing drug punishments, and women“s rights

2022-12-30T18:20:28Z

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers a Christmas speech at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 22, 2022. REUTERS/Leah Millis

U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday pardoned six people who have already served time for crimes, including five convicted of drug or alcohol-related offenses and a woman who killed her allegedly abusive husband nearly five decades ago.

The latest pardons showed Biden nudging U.S. criminal justice policy away from the war-on-drugs ethos that he and other liberal lawmakers once championed.

Now gearing up for a possible re-election bid in 2024, the Democratic president faces pressure to show progress on racial and criminal justice issues. The United States has less than 5% of the world’s population but a fifth of its prisoners. A disproportionate share are people of color, who make up a sizable chunk of Biden’s base of support.

All three of Biden’s uses of the pardon power so far in his term have involved reducing the sentences of people convicted of drug-related offenses.

In October, he dismissed the sentences of thousands of people with federal offenses for simple marijuana possession and launched a reexamination of how the drug is classified by federal officials.

All of the people pardoned on Friday were convicted and served a sentence for the crime, some of which happened decades ago, when they were young. In the years since, they have developed careers and been involved in community service.

One of those pardoned was Beverly Ann Ibn-Tamas, now 80, who shot and killed her neurosurgeon husband while she was pregnant in 1976. The case of Ibn-Tamas, who said she was abused and acted in self-defense, became a model for using a woman’s history of abuse in legal arguments.

After she was released, Ibn-Tamas worked in healthcare and raised the two children fathered by her husband as a single mother, the White House said. Her daughter is now an attorney.

Others on Biden’s list included Vincente Ray Flores, an active-duty Air Force service member, now 37, who was convicted for consuming ecstasy and alcohol while serving at age 19, according to the White House.

Biden also pardoned Edward Lincoln De Coito III, a decorated U.S. Army veteran, now 50, who was briefly a courier for marijuana at age 23 and served more than a year in prison.

Among the others was a 66-year-old convicted of a crime related to a cocaine deal at age 22; a 77-year-old man who sold whiskey without tax stamps at age 18; and a 72-year old who rented space that was used to grow marijuana nearly 30 years ago.