In the first use of his clemency powers, President Joe Biden has pardoned three felons and commuted the sentences of 75 others. Included in this cohort of pardons is Abraham Bolden, the country’s first Black Secret Service agent on a presidential detail.
Appointed by then-President John F. Kennedy in 1964, Bolden was charged with trying to sell a copy of a U.S. Secret Service file at the age of 29. Although he maintained his innocence and insisted he was being framed, Bolden was convicted. The witnesses who testified against him later confessed to lying due to the prosecutor’s influence.
Along with Bolden, Betty Jo Bogans, and Dexter Eugene Jackson were also included on the presidential clemency recipient list.
The 75 other individuals who had their sentences commuted were considered “low-level drug offenders" who had under four years remaining in their prison sentences. Some were also serving their time in home confinement during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It has also been reported that the majority of clemency recipients were Black or brown. The White House stated that each person granted clemency has displayed efforts to make changes in their lives.
"America is a nation of laws and second chances, redemption, and rehabilitation," Biden said in a statement. "Elected officials on both sides of the aisle, faith leaders, civil rights advocates, and law enforcement leaders agree that our criminal justice system can and should reflect these core values that enable safer and stronger communities."
The pardons and commutations marked Biden’s "Second Chance Month," an initiative that aims at “improving outcomes for felons who reenter society as part of a broader strategy to reform the criminal justice system.” The administration is planning to include $145 million for a federal program to train returning citizens for the workforce and the removal of criminal history requirements on applications for Small Business Administration grants.
Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary noted that President Biden has granted clemency to more people at this point in his first term than each of his five immediate predecessors.
"That is because this is a priority to the president," she said.
Biden later added that those pardoned have each "demonstrated their commitment to rehabilitation and are striving every day to give back and contribute to their communities."