The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

President Grants Commutations to 330 Federal Prisoners, Including Robert Riley


President Obama today announced 330 grants of commutation. His total for his eight years in office is 1,715 commutations, 598 of which were for people serving life sentences.

Among the prisoners who received commutations was Robert Riley, who has been serving life without parole for a nonviolent drug offense since 1993. The American Civil Liberties Union featured Riley in "A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses."

In his 2013 interview for the report, Riley called himself a "dead man," a reference to his sentence of life without parole. During sentencing, Judge Ronald Longstaff told Riley, "The mandatory life sentence as applied to you is not just, it's an unfair sentence, and I find it very distasteful to have to impose it. The laws of Congress [are] keeping me from being a judge right now in your case, because they're not letting me impose what I think would be a fair sentence."

"Today President Obama continued his rescue effort, saving more families torn apart by harsh prison sentences that don't fit the crimes," said Jennifer Turner, author of "A Living Death" and principal human rights researcher for the ACLU. "We celebrate with those prisoners who will rejoin their loved ones, and we wish the same for the thousands trapped behind bars by extreme and unjust sentences. The incoming administration must redress the wrongs done to those families. It must repair the damage done to our country by criminal justice policies that are as ineffective as they are cruel."

Said Cynthia W. Roseberry, project manager for Clemency Project 2014, "We are grateful to President Obama for the historically large number of grants in a single round and in total. Our gratitude for all he has done to prove that we are a nation of second chances is eclipsed only by that of clemency recipients and their families."

Clemency Project 2014 includes the ACLU and four other organizations. The project supported the clemency applications of 894 of President Obama's 1,715 total commutations.

For "A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses," visit:

For more information about Clemency Project 2014, visit:

For more information about the ACLU's Criminal Law Reform Project, visit:

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The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

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