President Obama today commuted the sentences of another 79 drug dealers, continuing a project that has gained new urgency with the election of Donald Trump, who is unlikely to offer such leniency. Ninety-eight federal inmates will return home sooner than expected after President Barack Obama commuted their sentences on October 27, part of a clemency push that has sped up dramatically in Obama's final months.
"The president has now commuted the sentences of 1,023 men and women incarcerated under outdated and unduly harsh sentencing laws, including 342 individuals who were serving life sentences". Most drug prisoners who have received grants so far had served at least 10 years in prison for a drug crime.
Well, that depends on the definition of "nonviolent".
Clinton granted 61 commutations and Bush granted just 11, according to the Justice Department's clemency statistics.
For years, Obama has said strict sentences for drug offenses are excessive and some offenders go to prison for too long.
As part of his effort to reform the criminal justice system, Obama commuted 79 federal prison sentences Tuesday. In 2016 alone, the president has released 839 federal prisoners.
"At the risk of sounding ungrateful, we say, "thanks, but please hurry", said Kevin Ring, vice president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums". Instead of staying in prison until April 2023, his sentence will expire on November 22, 2018, on the condition that he enrolls in a drug treatment program. His sentence is now set to expire on March 22, 2017.
And for people invested in criminal justice reform, time is running out with a president who is a "known quantity" on these issues, said Rachel Barkow, an NYU Professor of Law and member of the US Sentencing Commission, in an interview with BuzzFeed News.
Criminal justice groups are encouraging Obama to grant even more commutations before his presidency ends, fearing Trump will not be as forgiving.
"At the same time, President Obama knows that clemency alone can not fix decades of overly punitive sentencing policies or make our criminal justice system more fair and more just on the whole".
The Obama administration was flooded by petitions for clemency after the 2014 announcement.