Haley Barbour has put his foot in it again; this time for pardoning more than 200 Mississippi inmates as one of his final acts as governor. Please understand that most of these people had served their sentences; Barbour issued full pardons so they could vote, buy fishing licenses and live a normal life in the free world. As Michelle Alexander argues with chilling clarity in her book The New Jim Crow, ex-cons don’t return to the free world when they leave prison, they are condemned to restricted and truncated lives in which the pursuit of an education or a decent job is largely a waste of time. In short, they have been excommunicated from the American dream. Governor Barbour felt that a few former inmates, selected with capricious randomness, deserve better.
It should also be noted that this is not the first time Haley Barbour has shown his compassionate side. Until 2008, the Mississippi Governor refused to pardon anyone for any reason, then, as Radley Balko discovered when he checked the records two years ago, Barbour suddenly went soft. The five men pardoned on Barbour’s way out the door are remarkably similar to the kind of people Barbour has pardoned in recent years. Here’s Balko’s list from late 2009:
Bobby Hays Clark, who in 1996 shot his ex-girlfriend in the neck and beat her boyfriend with a broom handle. Clark, who had a previous aggravated assault conviction, was sentenced to 38 years. Barbour pardoned him last year without notifying the family of Clark’s victim.
Michael David Graham, who in 1989 shot his ex-wife point-blank with a shotgun while she waited at a traffic light. Barbour suspended Graham’s life sentence, and he was released.
Clarence Jones, who stabbed his ex-girlfriend 22 times in 1992. She had previously filed multiple assault and trespassing charges against him. He was sentenced to life in prison. Barbour pardoned him last year.
Paul Joseph Warnock, who in 1989 shot his girlfriend in the back of the head as she slept. He was sentenced to life in prison in 1993. Barbour pardoned him last year.
William James Kimble, convicted and sentenced to life for robbing and murdering an elderly man in 1991. (more…)