Obama Commutes 330 More Sentences in Final Act as President

By Seth Ferranti 01/20/17

In his last 48 hours in office, Obama commuted 539 sentences. 

President Barack Obama

In his efforts to counteract what he’s called a “systematic injustice,” outgoing President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 330 more non-violent drug offenders on Thursday.

With the final act of his presidency, Obama has now granted more clemencies than any other president in U.S. history. With the tally now standing at 1,715 prisoners given a second chance, Obama has made a difference in the lives of many families with his acts of mercy—correcting the terms of the over-sentenced, including shortening the sentences of 568 lifers, to give a sense of justice to the draconian War on Drugs that has turned our country into incarceration nation. 

"He wanted to do it. He wanted the opportunity to look at as many as he could to provide relief," Obama's White House counsel, Neil Eggleston, told the Chicago Tribune. "He saw the injustice of the sentences that were imposed in many situations, and he has a strong view that people deserve a second chance.”

During his tenure, Obama has made a concerted effort to remedy the consequences of the drug war, making a tremendous impact for those who were selected in the clemency process. Obama sought to commute the sentences of only the most deserving who have made an effort to turn their lives around through educational, drug and vocational programs in prison.

"The ones who really stuck home for the president and me are the ones who got their GED, they worked, they took courses in anger management, they took courses in getting over drug abuse issues, they remained in contact with their families," Eggleston said.

But many more prisoners were deserving of having their time shortened. As of January 3, Obama and his staff denied 14,485 clemency petitions and 1,629 pardons. In his second term, Obama continually asked Congress to pass more wide-reaching, retroactive laws that would affect more over-sentenced prisoners, but Congress refused to act. 

“It’s fantastic that the President is using his last days in office to continue to grant clemency to deserving prisoners,” Julie Stewart of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) told the Washington Post. “But my heart aches for those who will not make the cut.”

“After over two years of believing they may have a chance for freedom, they now see that door of hope closing. I can’t imagine what the pall in the prisons will feel like on January 20 when President Obama leaves office.”

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After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at sethferranti.com. You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.