Obama Commutes Sentences Of 22 Nonviolent Drug Offenders

By McCarton Ackerman 04/03/15

Obama is on a commutation roll as he makes a blaring statement about the outdated laws and policies in the U.S.

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama is continuing his push to reduce the excessively long prison sentences of some nonviolent drug offenders, commuting the sentences of 22 convicted federal prisoners who are behind bars for drug-related crimes.

It marked the most commutations by a president in a single day since Bill Clinton issued 40 on his final day in office. All but one of the 22 prisoners will be released on July 28. Seventeen were convicted on charges of possessing or trafficking cocaine, while the others were charged on methamphetamine, marijuana and heroin-related offenses spanning from 1992 to 2006. Eight of them were serving life sentences. All of them had also shown exemplary behavior and either learned a new trade or furthered their education during their time behind bars.

"Now it is up to you to make the most of this opportunity. It will not be easy, and you will encounter many who doubt people with criminal records can change," he wrote to each of them on Tuesday. "I believe in your ability to prove the doubters wrong."

White House Counsel Neil Eggleston said in a statement that many of the prisoners’ harsh sentences came from outdated laws and policies. He noted that “had they been sentenced under current laws and policies, many of these individuals would have already served their time and paid their debt to society.” Activist groups working to reform mandatory minimum sentencing laws also applauded Obama’s decision.

"We are thrilled that President Obama is making good on his promise to use the powers granted to him by the Constitution to provide relief for federal prisoners serving excessively long mandatory minimum sentences," said Julie Stewart, president and founder of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. "We hope and expect to see more commutations granted through the end of his term."

Obama also pardoned eight federal drug offenders last December, four of whom were serving life sentences. He also signed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010, which reduced the sentencing disparities between offenses involving crack cocaine and powder cocaine.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.