President Obama made history by granting the largest number of commutated sentences in a single month by cutting short the sentences of 111 more federal prisoners on Tuesday.
Previously this month, Obama granted commutation to 214 federal inmates, for a total of 325 in August alone. That is more commutated sentences granted by the President in one month than any other president has made in a single year for over a hundred years.
These actions prove that Obama has stayed true to his word about using his authority to grant clemency to allow some offenders to have a second chance. During his two terms in the White House Obama has granted 673 commutations. That is more than the last ten presidents combined, and over one-third of the criminals who received the commutations were serving life sentences. Most of the inmates were convicted of nonviolent, drug-related offenses.
“We must remember that these are individuals — sons, daughters, parents, and in many cases, grandparents — who have taken steps toward rehabilitation and who have earned their second chance,” White House Counsel Neil Eggleston is quoted as saying. “They are individuals who received unduly harsh sentences under outdated laws for committing largely nonviolent drug crimes.”
Among the administration’s goals for justice system reform were to end prison overcrowding and to save on taxpayer spending. Obama also changed the law about prisoners receiving federal grant money to get an education, giving many behind bars a second chance at integrating back into society after serving their debt to society.
Obama’s attempts at reform come at a much-needed juncture; according to the Washington Post, there were 25,000 people behind bars in 1980, and today that number has inflated to over 200,000.
In order to be eligible for commutation, inmates must have served at least ten years of their sentence for a nonviolent crime, as well as displaying good behavior and not having any connections with gangs or cartels. Release dates for the prisoners are varied, but many will taste freedom before the end of the year.
Julie Stewart, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums — a prisoner advocacy group that worked on a clemency case for one individual who received a commuted sentence — said in a statement, “We applaud the president for using the clemency power to free people who fully expected to die in prison and for shining a light on the excesses of federal drug sentencing.”
For more information about commutations, visit the White House website here.