There have been cases such as Antonio Bascaró, who has been in prison for 37 years because of non-violent marijuana charges. President Obama has had the opportunity to pardon him, but it was denied because Bascaró was prosecuted under "old laws", and Obama's agenda did not include old laws.

Does anyone besides the president have the authority to pardon people like Bascaró? In other words, could he be pardoned by some other authority?

  • Technically no (unless you count subsequent Presidents). But, Congress can pass private bills would could have the effect of releasing someone from prison.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 19:18
  • @ohwilleke Do you know if Congress even considers reforming the rules for those in prison for "old law"? The president didn't have anything in his pardon agenda addressing this, so although Bascaró should have applied, he's been in prison for too long and the pardoning didn't include those convicted in 1980.
    – Cannabijoy
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 21:20
  • There are member of Congress who care. They probably don't have a majority.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 22:59

1 Answer 1


The president alone has power, under Article II, Section 2, Clause 1, to grant pardons for federal offenses. Many states have an analogous power for governors, to pardon state offenses. In some states, though (for example Minnesota), there is a board in charge of the process (made up, in Minnesota, of the Governor, Chief Justice and Attorney General). Likewise, in Canada, pardons are granted by a board.

Although POTUS has the power, in terms of implementation it is a bit more complicated, since he doesn't sit around wondering "Who should I pardon": he has an Office of the Pardon Attorney who makes recommendations.

However, there are other ways to get out of jail (besides doing the time), namely having the conviction overturned, being paroled, and credit for good behavior. Federal parole is no longer an option, but the other avenues are open, at least in principle.

  • Thank you user6726. This is what I was looking for. So basically, since the judge gave the sentence, there is nothing that anyone can legally do to free Bascaró or anyone else given outrageous sentences. Is this correct?
    – Cannabijoy
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 16:19
  • Not strictly, but close. Bascaró could appeal the conviction or the sentence, which may result in another judge releasing him. Or, congress could pass legislation retroactively decreasing sentences for such offenders. Neither of those seem terribly likely, but they're theoretically possible.
    – minnmass
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 16:35
  • Thank you @minnmass. That's what I'm wondering. Who do federal inmates appealed their sentences to, and is it as simple as whether this group of people say Yes or No?
    – Cannabijoy
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 16:46
  • He would need a legal basis for appeal, for example if exculpatory evidence was wrongly excluded by the trial judge (assuming his atttorney objected). There probably is no basis for an appeal, though a clever attorney might come up with something.
    – user6726
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 16:53
  • Thanks user6726 and @K-C. I understand that he's not getting out. He's only got 2 years left, and if they let him out now it might cause the media to show a 30 minute special on Dateline that nobody will watch. I'm just curious and wanted to know who keeps telling these people "No". Do we elect these people or does somebody just choose them? Or do the prisoners just get lost in the system and nobody realizes it?
    – Cannabijoy
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 17:29

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