U.S. President Joe Biden during a speech in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 21, 2022.
U.S. President Joe Biden during a speech in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 21, 2022. Reuters / EVELYN HOCKSTEIN

U.S. President Joe Biden will issue the first pardons of his term on Tuesday, part of a series of steps aimed at shoring up his record on crime and racial justice in an election year.

Biden will pardon three people and commute, or reduce, the sentences of 75 more, most of them convicted of non-violent drug crimes, the White House said.

White House officials are also introducing policies on Tuesday to assist people who have served time to integrate back into society and reduce the chance of repeat offenses, including a $145 million job training program at federal prisons.

The steps fall short of the criminal justice reforms activists want from the administration, including broadly reducing sentences for non-violent drug offenses and freeing more of those previously convicted.

The United States has less than 5% of the world's people but a fifth of its prisoners. Prison populations were reduced in recent years to lower risks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The issue carries special weight ahead of the midterm congressional elections in November, where Democrats' control of the House of Representatives and Senate are on the line.

Democrats need support from people of color, who are disproportionately imprisoned. Rising urban crime is expected to be a key issue in the election, as are labor shortages in a time of high inflation.

"America is a nation of laws and second chances, redemption, and rehabilitation," Biden said in a statement released on Tuesday. "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 and decrease crime."

He said the administration would continue to review clemency petitions and other efforts to reform the law enforcement system.

Betty Jo Bogans, 51, is being pardoned after serving a seven-year sentence stemming from a 1998 conviction for possessing crack cocaine for her boyfriend, the White House said. Dexter Jackson, 52, will be pardoned after a 2002 conviction for letting marijuana distributors use his pool hall.

The people seeing their sentences reduced have already served almost 10 years in prison, on average, for nonviolent drug offenses and have shown a commitment to rehabilitation, the White House said.

Abraham Bolden, 86, who served as the first Black member of a president's Secret Service detail under President John F. Kennedy, is also among those being pardoned.

The Chicago man raised concerns about the readiness of the security force before facing charges in the 1960s of trying to sell government information to a counterfeiter. Bolden maintained his innocence and key witnesses in his trial admitted to lying at the prosecutor's request, the White House said.