He’s granted clemency to more prisoners than the past 10 presidents combined
The president greets inmates Obama greets inmates as he becomes the first sitting president to visit a federal prison in El Reno, Oklahoma in July of 2015. Official White House photo by Pete Souza
In a major push to commute prison sentences before the end of his final term, President Obama shortened the sentences of 111 more inmates who were incarcerated for drug offences. Earlier this month, President Obama signed off on 214 federal sentence commutations in a single day in an effort to reform the prison and criminal justice system. Instead of attempting to push congressional legislation that may get stalled or dropped altogether, Obama has been using his executive authority to make an impact on the justice system.
While these changes may seem recent, Obama initially put the progam into action two years ago when he asked a specific group of inmates to fill out applications to get their sentences commuted. Since then, Obama has commuted 637 sentences overall—most of those for nonviolent drug offenders. That’s more than the last ten presidents have enacted combined, New York Magazine reports.
White House Counsel Neil Eggleston said in a statement that the administration expects Obama to continue commuting sentences until his term in office ends on January 20. That being said, Eggleston cautions that only congressionally passed legislation can “achieve the broader reforms needed to ensure our federal sentencing system operates more fairly and effectively.” Undoubtedly, Obama’s efforts are a strong start to ending the war on drugs that has plagued the U.S. for decades. Keeping the momentum going, however, will depend on who replaces him.