POLITICS
11/27/2013 07:30 am ET Updated Nov 27, 2013

Obama Has Pardoned Almost As Many Turkeys As Drug Offenders

President Obama, with daughters Malia, far right, Sasha, second from the right, extends his arm as he pardons the National Th
President Obama, with daughters Malia, far right, Sasha, second from the right, extends his arm as he pardons the National Thanksgiving Turkey, Courage, in a ceremony in the North Portico of the White House, in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2009. With Obama are Elizabeth Pelletier, far left, Paul Hill, center left, and Walter Pelletier, from the National Turkey Federation. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON -- When President Barack Obama pardons two overweight turkeys named Carmel and Popcorn during a ceremony at the White House on Wednesday, the number of pardons bestowed on semi-flightless birds during his presidency will almost match the number he has granted to human beings convicted of drug crimes.

Despite the administration's recent talk of reforming the criminal justice system, Obama has granted the fewest pardons of any modern president. Of the 39 pardons Obama has granted, just 11 have been for people convicted of drug crimes, according to Department of Justice records. He's granted 10 turkey pardons, sparing the birds from Thanksgiving execution to live out their lives on a farm.

If you count one commutation of sentence Obama granted, which was also for a prisoner convicted of a drug crime, Obama could theoretically even the human-fowl numbers next November if he pardons two more turkeys without granting any more human pardons. A presidential pardon grants a reprieve to a convict and ends the punishment. A commutation modifies the sentence, but doesn't affect the conviction.

Obama's human pardon number this year actually was higher than his turkey pardons. In both 2009 and 2012, Obama pardoned more turkeys than people. By comparison, Ronald Reagan, by this point in his presidency, had pardoned 313 people. Obama's total, including his one commutation, stands at 40.

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union is petitioning Obama to review the cases of 2,074 people serving federal life sentences for nonviolent offenses, who unlike overweight turkeys, will most likely be around next Thanksgiving.

For the purpose of this story, we've counted the turkey that appears at the annual Thanksgiving pardon ceremony and the backup turkey, which like the "pardoned" turkey, gets to die as naturally as any farm-raised animal too overweight to reproduce on its own.

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