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Biden pardons black ex-Secret Service agent and two others

The first African American to serve on a presidential security detail is among three people to have been pardoned by US President Joe Biden.

Abraham W Bolden Sr, 86, was convicted in 1964 on bribery charges.

The White House also announced that the prison sentences of 75 others – most of whom were serving time on low-level drug offences – have been shortened.

The US constitution grants presidents the authority to forgive convictions or shorten sentences.

Tuesday’s grants of clemency are the first of the Biden administration.

“America is a nation of laws and second chances, redemption, and rehabilitation,” the president said in a statement.

“Helping those who served their time return to their families and become contributing members of their communities is one of the most effective ways to reduce recidivism [repeat offending] and decrease crime.”

The three people to be pardoned are Mr Bolden, from Chicago, Illinois; Betty Jo Bogans, 51, from Houston, Texas; and, Dexter Eugene Jackson, 52, from Athens, Georgia.

Bolden, a former Secret Service agent to President John F Kennedy, worked to clear his name for decades after his conviction.

He argues he was framed for exposing unprofessional and racist behaviour in the agency. Some witnesses who testified against him also admitted to lying at the request of prosecutors.

Ms Bogan and Mr Jackson served time in federal prison for drug possession and distribution charges respectively.

Mr Biden wrote that all three “have demonstrated their commitment to rehabilitation and are striving every day to give back and contribute to their communities”.

A pardon does not mean the person is declared innocent, but does remove restrictions imposed by the conviction.

Many of the 75 Americans whose sentences were shortened on Tuesday “would have received a lower sentence if they were charged with the same offence today” due to recent criminal justice reforms, Mr Biden said.

Several were already under home confinement because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Also on Tuesday, the White House announced a series of new measures aimed at helping former prisoners successfully re-enter society.

They include a US $145 million federal programme for job training and employment support, as well as expanded access to housing, health care and capital, including by removing criminal history from federal small business grant applications.

With more than two million people behind bars, the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world, although the numbers have dropped in recent years.

According to data from the World Prison Brief, the country has 639 inmates for every 100,000 people. The UK, by comparison, has 131.

Mr Biden’s pardons and commutations, which coincide with the end of national Second Chance Month, came on the recommendation of a pardon attorney at his Department of Justice.

That marks a return to regular order from former president Donald Trump, who often solicited clemency requests from aides and friends.

In the final hours of his presidency in 2020, Mr Trump issued over 140 pardons and commutations, including to his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, and rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black.

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