Obama could be on the verge of pardoning hundreds of inmates — and it's about time

Modern presidents have been reluctant to issue pardons and clemencies, which means too many people are unjustly imprisoned

(Image credit: (Getty/Chip Somodevilla))

"The quality of mercy is not strain'd," wrote William Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice. Obviously, the Bard never experienced pardon politics in the modern era.

The power of governors and presidents to pardon people or commute their sentences is nearly absolute. Even the most bitterly opposed pardons have no recourse, as those who attempted to reverse Bill Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich discovered. Some states offer constraining mechanisms before sentences can be pardoned or commuted — such as a requirement to consider recommendations from a panel — but once given the action is nearly unchallengeable. It is the purest exercise of executive power in the American model of government, and it intends to allow for recourse to common sense in rare instances of judicial injustice without any other remedy.

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Edward Morrissey

Edward Morrissey has been writing about politics since 2003 in his blog, Captain's Quarters, and now writes for HotAir.com. His columns have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Post, The New York Sun, the Washington Times, and other newspapers. Morrissey has a daily Internet talk show on politics and culture at Hot Air. Since 2004, Morrissey has had a weekend talk radio show in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and often fills in as a guest on Salem Radio Network's nationally-syndicated shows. He lives in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota with his wife, son and daughter-in-law, and his two granddaughters. Morrissey's new book, GOING RED, will be published by Crown Forum on April 5, 2016.