Obama’s Mercy Falls Short: Freed Inmate Turns Gunman

Alton Mills has been re-arrested and charged with three charges of attempted murder after having his life sentence commuted by former President Barack Obama. Mills, a former drug dealer in Chicago who was released eight years ago, is currently facing charges of violence that might lead to murder charges.

Mills was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release after his 1993 arrest on federal conspiracy charges related to a crack cocaine plot.

In 2015, however, when the Obama administration began a clemency campaign for some federal convicts, Mills’ story took an unexpected turn. Most of these low-level criminals had their sentences handed down during the height of the war on drugs, and they were not aggressive. As a result of this program, Mills, who was classified as a low-level criminal, was granted a commutation and released in 2016.

Mills appeared to make some strides in his recovery after being let free. According to a 2017 article published by the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, Mills had found employment with the Chicago Transit Authority’s Second Chance Program with the intention of obtaining certification as a diesel technician. Chicago Democrat and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin has used Mills’ case to push for federal prison reform.

Recent events, however, paint a different picture, one of recidivism rather than success in changing one’s ways. The terrifying revelation was reportedly released in the early hours of May 14 by local investigative news site CWBChicago. After an argument about traffic, Mills reportedly opened fire on another car, critically injuring a lady.

The success of the clemency program is now in question after this horrific tragedy. Were the hazards associated with commuting Mills’ case and those like it properly assessed? How well did the effort prevent hardened offenders from reverting to their old ways?

At this juncture, it’s important to remember that every policy decision has consequences. Clemency for Mills and others was a political choice motivated by a desire to right what was seen as a wrong. But the fact remains that criminal behavior is caused by more than just harsh penalties. Offenders who are reformed are those who demonstrate personal accountability, high moral standards, and a willingness to alter their behavior.

Simply put, there is no universally applicable approach to dealing with criminal behavior and punishment. Second chance and restorative justice programs are admirable, but protecting law-abiding residents must be a top priority. This tragedy should serve as a lesson and a rallying cry for those who believe in social justice but also recognize the need of keeping the public safe.

One thing is certain at this time: a woman’s life is in jeopardy because of a decision taken eight years ago in the corridors of power, exemplifying the weight of such choices and the far-reaching implications they may have on a society.




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