January 19, 2017

USA: Obama Grants 330 Commutations On Last Full Day In Office; In 8 Years, Obama Has Granted More Commutations Than Any President In History.

The Washington Times, USA
written by Kelly Cohen
Thursday January 19, 2017

President Obama on Thursday granted 330 commutations to federal prisoners, less than 24 hours before his predecessor takes the oath of office. All were serving drug sentences.

Obama's last major act as president brings his total number of commutations granted to 1,715, including 568 life sentences. According to the White House, Thursday's batch of commutations is the most issued by any U.S. president in a single day.

"The president set out to reinvigorate clemency, and he has done just that," White House Counsel Neil Eggleston said Thursday.

In his eight years in office, Obama has granted more commutations than any president in history and has surpassed the number of commutations granted by the past 13 presidents combined.

The final batch comes just two days after Obama handed out out 209 commutations and 64 pardons, including shortening former Army soldier Chelsea Manning's prison sentence.

Thursday's round of commutations includes no big names, but rather 330 individuals behind bars for nonviolent drug-related offenses. According to Eggleston, the "vast majority" of those receiving commutations were serving "unduly long sentences for drug crimes."

Obama in 2014 announced his clemency initiative, which encouraged federal prisoners to petition the Justice Department to have their sentences commuted or reduced. The move was part of the president's larger push for criminal justice reform.

According to the White House, about 50 percent of all federal prisoners are serving sentences for drugs, and many of those who have benefited from Obama's clemency are serving harsh sentences handed out during the war on drugs. Mandatory minimum sentences have since been rolled back by Congress, but not fully. Obama pushed Congress to pass bipartisan criminal justice reform during his second term in office, but legislation never reached his desk.

"As the President has written to you," Eggleston wrote in a blog post, "your example will influence whether someone in similar circumstances will get his or her own second chance in the future. Make the president proud with how you use your second chance."

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