In a video released on Monday, July 3rd, President Obama announced that he was commuting the sentences of 46 federal drug offenders. “These men and women were not hardened criminals, but the overwhelming majority had been sentenced to at least 20 years,” he said, “14 of them had been sentenced to life for nonviolent drug offenses, so their punishments didn’t fit the crime.” The President is shown signing the commutation letters in the video.
Last year, Mr. Obama commuted the sentences of 43 prisoners, as part of an initiative begun last year by James M. Cole, the deputy attorney general at the time. Mr. Cole set the criteria for who might qualify: generally nonviolent inmates who have served more than 10 years in prison, who have behaved well while incarcerated and who would not have received as lengthy a sentence under today’s revised sentencing rules. This most recent action has brought the total number of Obama’s issued commutations to 89, exceeding that of any president since Lyndon B. Johnson, who commuted 226 sentences, according to the New York Times. Mr. Obama plans to use clemency to correct excesses of the past, when politicians locked away even minor criminals for excessive amounts of time to show they were tough on crime. African-American and Hispanic men have been disproportionately affected by such sentences, and many Republicans and Democrats believe the nation went too far.
Contributor: Cai Redmond