Today, President Obama is commuting the federal prison sentences of 95 men and women, most of whom committed nonviolent offenses.With this step, the President has now granted 184 commutations total — more than the last five presidents combined. Take a look:
Source: U.S. Department of Justice
President Obama is committed to restoring the sense of fairness at the heart of our justice system. In 2010, he signed the Fair Sentencing Act, a bill that reduced the sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine offenses. Most of the commutations the President has granted have been to non-violent offenders sentenced under those unjust — and now outdated — drug crime sentencing rules. If these individuals had been convicted for the exact same crime under today’s laws, nearly all of them would have already finished serving their time.
The President shared his thoughts in a personal letter to each of the 95 people receiving a commutation today, writing, “I believe in your ability to prove the doubters wrong, and change your life for the better.”
Acts of clemency alone will not reduce the burden of our federal prison population or make our criminal justice system fairer. That’s why President Obama and his Administration have taken a number of steps already to fight for a fairer and more efficient justice system, including:
- Signing the Fair Sentencing Act to ease the disparity in the amounts of powder cocaine and crack cocaine required to trigger certain penalties in the federal system, including the imposition of rigid mandatory minimum sentences.
- Creating a Task Force on 21st Century Policing to review current police practices and to identify and implement best practices with the goal of promoting community trust in law enforcement.
- Through the Attorney General, launching the Smart on Crime initiative to ensure federal laws are enforced more fairly and efficiently, including Department of Justice efforts to modify its charging policies on mandatory minimum sentences for certain federal low-level drug-related offenses, improve diversion and re-entry policies, strengthen protections for the most vulnerable.
Learn more about President Obama’s push for meaningfulcriminal justice reform:
- WATCH: Weekly Address: It’s Time To Reform our Criminal Justice System
- WATCH: President Obama Visits the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution
- President Obama: “Our Criminal Justice System Isn’t as Smart as It Should Be”
Melanie Garunay is Associate Director for Digital Outbound for the Office of Digital Strategy