The American Presidency Project
John T. Woolley & Gerhard Peters • Santa Barbara, California return to original document
• Jimmy Carter
Puerto Rican Nationalists Announcement of the President's Commutation of Sentences.
September 6, 1979

President Carter today commuted the sentences of four Puerto Rican Nationalists to time served. These individuals have been serving prison terms for Federal convictions stemming from their participation in shootings that occurred at the Blair House in 1950 and the U.S. House of Representatives in 1954.

The four individuals are Oscar Collazo, 67; Rafael Cancel Miranda, 49; Irving Flores Rodriguez, 54; and Lolita Lebron, 59.

Mr. Collazo has been eligible for parole since April 1966, and Mrs. Lebron has been eligible since July 1969. Both Messrs. Cancel Miranda and Flores Rodriguez became eligible for parole in July 1979. However, none has applied for parole because of their political beliefs.

The President based his decision on a favorable recommendation of the Attorney General to commute the sentences of these individuals to time served. The Attorney General's letter of advice to the President cited the following reasons in support of the recommendation:

1. Each of the four has served an unusually long time in prison, and the Attorney General believes that no legitimate deterrent or correctional purpose is served by continuing their incarceration. Mr. Collazo has served over 28 years; Ms. Lebron and Messrs. Rodriguez and Miranda have each served over 25 years. Bureau of Prison reports show that in recent times only three inmates have served more time in Federal custody than these four.

2. Humane considerations militate against retaining in custody persons who have served (according to Bureau of Prison records) prison terms of far greater length than the terms normally served by those convicted of equally or even more heinous offenses.

3. It is the consensus of the law enforcement officials consulted that commutation would be appropriate and would pose little substantial risk of the defendants' engaging in further criminal activity or becoming the rallying point for terrorist groups. To the extent that clemency might, under other circumstances, be viewed as evidence of leniency toward terrorists, no such conclusion could be drawn here in light of the length of the sentences served.

In addition, the President concurred with the judgment of the Secretary of State that the release of these four prisoners would be a significant humanitarian gesture and would be viewed as such by much of the international community.

The four prisoners will be released from Federal prison immediately upon completing routine administrative discharge procedures for their release.

Citation: Jimmy Carter: "Puerto Rican Nationalists Announcement of the President's Commutation of Sentences. ", September 6, 1979. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=32827.
 
© 1999-2011 - Gerhard Peters - The American Presidency Project