The purpose of a full pardon is to relieve a person of a crime and to restore their civil rights. Sounds good, but it’s really not enough. The 143 people trump just granted clemency to, plus the 90 or so others from the past few years, get another chance (or a lighter sentence), but there are people with identical charges serving their entire sentence just because they didn’t or couldn’t pander to the president. Meanwhile, there are over 2 million people incarcerated in the U.S. right now, plus even more who come home with criminal records that hold them back from basic needs like finding work or housing.
This time around with trump, it’s important to note that in addition to freeing a few people here and there, he also oversaw the execution of 13 people in the past six months. There were no federal executions in almost 20 years, and then there was this scramble to kill these 13 people before he left office. And there are only about 50 federal prisoners on death row to begin with. Both of these situations—clemencies and executions—highlight a certain type of injustice in this current system. It’s one where a single person gets to handpick which people and which convictions are valid.