Most of those sentences were for nonviolent drug-related crimes
In a historic move, President Barack Obama commuted 214 federal sentences on Wednesday, marking the most commutations directed in a single day by a U.S. president in the last hundred years, BuzzFeed News reports.
Though this wouldn’t be the first time President Obama commuted a wave of prison sentences. Since early July of 2015, Obama has been issuing commutations at a remarkable speed with the help of Clemency Project, an organization that aims to shorten federal prison sentences for those who likely wouldn’t receive such harsh punishment if charged today. In an interview with BuzzFeed News, White House counsel Neil Eggleston said,
“This is a good day — not just for the 214 individuals who are getting a hard-earned second chance, but for the people at the White House and the Department of Justice and at advocacy organizations across the country who work every day to remedy injustices in our sentencing laws. We’re going to keep our foot on the gas pedal when it comes to reviewing applications for clemency, but we are also going to need leaders in both parties in Congress to pass long overdue reforms to our criminal justice system to achieve lasting change on the scale that is needed.”
According to the White House, of the 214 commutations Obama issued on Wednesday, 67 of those are for inmates currently serving life sentences mostly for nonviolent drug charges. Such is the case with many of the reduced sentences. Throughout Obama’s presidency, he has commuted a total of 562 sentences, providing some relief for our country’s strained prison system and second chances for those convicted of nonviolent crimes.
Though, as the White House states, this is just the beginning of reforming a system that unduly punishes nonviolent offenders. In a blog post BuzzFeed says will be posted in reference to these commuted sentences, Neil Eggleston writes,
“The individual nature of the clemency process underscores both its incredible power to change a person’s life, but also its inherent shortcoming as a tool for broader sentencing reform. That is why action from Congress is so important. While we continue to work to act on as many clemency applications as possible, only legislation can bring about lasting change to the federal system. It is critical that both the House and the Senate continue to work on a bipartisan basis to get a criminal justice reform bill to the president’s desk.”
You can check out the full list of Obama’s recent commutations by heading over to the White House’s website.