In the largest single-day action of its kind since at least 1900, President Barack Obama on Wednesday commuted the sentences of 214 federal inmates, including 67 inmates who were serving life sentences. That brings Obama’s total for the year to 375 inmates whose sentences he has commuted.
During his entire presidency, Obama has commuted the sentences of 562 inmates. That total surpasses the combined total number of sentences commuted by the nine presidents who preceded him. Most of the offenders were in federal prisons for nonviolent drug crimes.
“We’re going to keep our foot on the gas pedal when it comes to reviewing applications for clemency,” said White House counsel Neil Eggleston.
“Our work is far from finished,” he added in a blog post. “I expect the president will continue to grant clemency in a historic and inspiring fashion.”
Starting in 2014, the Obama administration launched a clemency initiative to review sentences of drug offenders who were sentenced to harsher terms than they would receive under current sentencing guidelines. Although legislation has been introduced in Congress to reduce sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, it is not likely the legislation will pass in the pre-election weeks after Congress returns from recess.
Families Against Mandatory Minimums, an advocacy group involved in the clemency initiative, applauded Obama’s actions.
“Many people will use words today like leniency and mercy,” Kevin Ring, the group’s vice president, said in a statement. “But what really happened is that a group of fellow citizens finally got the punishment they deserved. Not less, but, at long last, not more.”
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