Arnold Ray Jones followed along with more than 29,000 other federal inmates recently, when President Obama announced a program that would grant executive clemency to drug offenders given long sentences, by asking Obama for a presidential commutation. When it arrived on August 3, however, Jones refused to accept.
The inmate’s change of heart only highlights that Obama’s commutations come with strings attached, and in the case of Jones, those strings involved a residential drug treatment program. It has been a condition attached to 92 of the commutation grants given by Obama, yet Jones is the first to reject the condition.
— American History (@theHOTUS) February 10, 2016
If the 50-year-old had agreed to the condition, and completed the program, he would be out in two years. He still has six years left on the 2002 sentence for drug trafficking, but the reason for rejecting the commutation may involve a hope that he will get off on good behavior, which would see him released in April of 2019, which would be only eight-months longer than if he had accepted the condition of the program. Jones is serving time in a low-security prison in Beaumont, Texas.
USA Today shares the details about the commutations and Jones’ rejection.
“The unusual rejection came to light last week, when Obama commuted the sentences of 102 more federal inmates. With the 673 previous commutations granted, the total should have been 775 — but the White House accounting had only 774. At about the same time, the Department of Justice updated its online record of Obama’s commutations and updated Jones’ entry with the notation: ‘condition declined, commutation not effectuated.'”
Although the White House and the Justice Department have declined to talk about Jones and the specifics to his case, the records that were submitted by Jones as a part of his court case demonstrate that he used crack cocaine on a weekly basis prior to his arrest, and adds that all drug treatment programs that he’s been a part of in the past have failed to be a success.
It’s described by the Bureau of Prisons that the Residential Drug Abuse Program is its most intensive treatment program, that separates offenders from the general population for an entire nine months and expects inmates to participate in four hours of community-based therapy programs daily.
Obama grants 95 Christmastime pardons and commutations: Scholars question the timing of the president’s clemency so… https://t.co/hZiRt2vhrW
— Neutral News (@neutralnews) December 18, 2015
Jones’ own mother shared on Thursday with the publication, that she had been very excited about the news of Obama’s commutation and that she had not been aware her son had rejected it.
“I don’t know about him declining or anything. I’m looking for my son to come home,” said Ruth Jones, of Lubbock, Texas.
Pardons differ from commutations as pardons are a form of full legal forgiveness for a crime, while commutations may shorten a sentence in prison, yet may leave other consequences as they are. Obama has increased the number of commutations used while in his last year in office. The publication shares that he has become “more creative” in how he adapts the commutation to fit the circumstance of each given case.
Although the more common commutation is a “time served” commutation, that releases the prisoner immediately, many of the commutations since August have had terms attached which have shortened sentences, but left prisoners with years left to serve. Additionally, Obama has attached many drug treatment programs as conditions to these. Jones, along with 214 inmates on August 3, received this variation of commutation, which was “the single largest grant of clemency in a single day in history of the presidency.”
White House Counsel Neil Eggleston wrote on the subject of the commutations offered on that day.
“For some, the president believes that the applicant’s successful re-entry will be aided with additional drug treatment, and the president has conditioned those commutations on an applicant’s seeking that treatment. Underlying all the president’s commutation decisions is the belief that these deserving individuals should be given the tools to succeed in their second chance.”
[Featured Image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]