January 12, 2012

Regarding the Jan. 9 editorial “Begging his pardon”:

I came to Washington in 1974 after law school and worked with President Gerald R. Ford’s Presidential Clemency Board, which reviewed less-than-honorable discharges of Vietnam-era military service members. Mr. Ford’s pardon power was essentially delegated to his board. We processed several thousand individuals who requested clemency.

It seems to me that a presidential commission could examine our prison population to weed out those who do not need to be incarcerated. Not only could such a program save money and reduce prison overcrowding, but it could also address the problem of excessive mandatory sentences imposed on offenders who are not a threat to public safety.

Of course, cases of individuals such as Marc Rich (pardoned by President Bill Clinton) counsel a president to tread carefully. But we are allowing the rotten apples to harm the many individuals whose release would benefit the community as a whole. Besides saving money, a mass commutation of nonviolent offenders would bring families together and end injustices endured by many.

Ned Fitch, Washington