Continuing his record-setting streak of commuting sentences for federal prisoners, Obama shortened the sentences for 102 inmates last week. Reforming the criminal justice system by granting clemency is one of Obama’s end of term moves to enforce change before he is replaced by the next president elect.
“The vast majority of today’s grants were for individuals serving unduly harsh sentences for drug-related crimes under outdated sentencing laws,” White House counsel Neil Eggleston said in a statement.
“With today’s grants, the President has commuted 774 sentences, more than the previous 11 presidents combined. With a total of 590 commutations this year, President Obama has now commuted the sentences of more individuals in one year than in any other single year in our nation’s history.”
Last August, Obama commuted the sentences of 325 nonviolent inmates, which was already a record setting action.
The prisoners won’t be released right away, and many of them will have to wait at least two years to be released. For inmates to have their sentences commuted they have to meet certain criteria like being nonviolent with a record of good behavior while behind bars, as well as not having any gang affiliations. Cases where the inmate would have received a lighter sentence if they had been convicted a few years later also have priority.
Obama has been arguing for years that harsh sentences for nonviolent drug offenses is a scourge on the justice system that needs to be fixed.
With his support, some prosecutors have decreased the use of mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes. According to the Washington Post, the United States has more people incarcerated per capita than any other country on the planet.
Eggleston added, “While he will continue to review cases on an individualized basis throughout the remainder of his term, these statistics make clear that the president and his administration have succeeded in efforts to reinvigorate the clemency process.”