Obama pens letter congratulating woman he granted clemency who made dean's list

Danielle Metz was sentenced in 1993 at age 26 to three life sentences plus an additional 20 years for her role in her husband’s cocaine trafficking ring.
Image: Former president Barack Obama speaks
Former president Barack Obama speaks to a gathering of more than 50 mayors and other guests during the North American Climate Summit on Dec. 5, 2017 in Chicago.Scott Olson / Getty Images file

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By Janelle Griffith

Former President Barack Obama recently penned a handwritten note to a woman he granted clemency in 2016, praising her for making the dean's list at Southern University, where she enrolled after she left prison.

Danielle Metz was sentenced in 1993 at age 26 to three life sentences plus an additional 20 years for her role in a cocaine trafficking ring run by her husband.

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She earned her GED in federal prison and wrote letters to lawmakers pleading for her freedom. In 2016, Obama commuted her sentence, and Metz enrolled in Southern University in New Orleans the following year. In June 2017, Louisiana became the first state to prohibit all public universities from asking applicants about their criminal history.

Earlier this month, Metz told The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit organization that reports on education, that she wished she could thank Obama.

“You don’t know what you did for me,” she said she would tell him. “I’m finally coming into my own. I made the honor roll.”

Metz finished her freshman year with a 3.75 grade point average and made the dean's list, according to The Hechinger Report. She hopes to pursue a career in social work.

USA Today, which also published The Hechinger Report's recent story on Metz, reported late last week that Metz received a handwritten letter from Obama.

“I am so proud of you, and am confident that your example will have a positive impact for others who are looking for a second chance,” Obama wrote, according to a copy of the letter published Thursday by USA Today and signed by Obama. “Tell your children I say hello, and know that I’m rooting for all of you.”

Obama ended his presidency having granted clemency to more people convicted of federal crimes than any of the last 10 or so presidents, according to the Pew Research Center. He also received far more requests for clemency than any U.S. president on record, largely as a result of an initiative set up by his administration to shorten prison terms for nonviolent federal inmates, often minorities, convicted of drug crimes, the Pew Research Center found.

Nationwide, less than 4 percent of formerly incarcerated people have a bachelor’s degree, according to a report released last year.