By Stacy M. Brown
President Joe Biden announced he’s using his clemency powers for the first time, issuing commutations for 75 drug offenders.
Biden also issued three pardons, including to the first Black Secret Service agent to work on a presidential detail, who had long professed his innocence.
“Helping those who served their time return to their families and become contributing members of their communities is one of the most effective ways to reduce recidivism and decrease crime,” Biden stated.
The president added that those receiving clemency had “demonstrated their commitment to rehabilitation and are striving every day to give back and contribute to their communities.”
The clemency recipients include Abraham Bolden, an 86-year-old former U.S. Secret Service agent and the first African American to serve on a presidential detail.
In 1964, authorities charged Bolden with offenses related to attempting to sell a copy of a Secret Service file.
His first trial resulted in a hung jury.
Following his conviction at a second trial, even though crucial witnesses against him admitted to lying at the prosecutor’s request, the court denied Bolden a new trial.
He has maintained his innocence, arguing that he was targeted for prosecution in retaliation for exposing unprofessional and racist behavior within the U.S. Secret Service.
Bolden has received numerous honors and awards for his ongoing work to speak out against the racism he faced in the Secret Service in the 1960s and his courage in challenging injustice.
Betty Jo Bogans also counted among those cleared by Biden.
A jury convicted the 51-year-old in 1998 for possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine in the Southern District of Texas.
Authorities said she attempted to transport drugs for her boyfriend and his accomplice, neither of whom were detained or arrested.
At the time of her conviction, the White House said Bogans was a single mother with no prior record who accepted responsibility for her limited role in the offense.
“Because of the harsh penalties in place at the time she was convicted, Ms. Bogan received a seven-year sentence,” the White House said in a statement.
In the nearly two decades since her release from custody, Bogans has held consistent employment, even while undergoing treatment for cancer, and has focused on raising her son.
Administration officials signaled that the president would no longer wait on Congress for needed criminal justice reform.
Biden announced a $145 million plan to provide job skills training to federal inmates to help them gain work when they are released.
He added the implementation of new steps to support those re-entering society after incarceration.
Those steps include a new collaboration between the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Labor to provide job training; new grants for workforce development programs; greater opportunities to serve in the federal government; expanded access to capital for people with convictions trying to start a small business; improved reentry services for veterans; and more support for health care, housing, and educational opportunities.
“As I laid out in my comprehensive strategy to reduce gun crime, helping those who served their time return to their families and become contributing members of their communities is one of the most effective ways to reduce recidivism and decrease crime,” Biden remarked.
“While (this) 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.”