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Obama Commutes Dozens More Sentences Of Nonviolent Drug Offenders

By McCarton Ackerman 08/05/16

While Obama may be breaking commutation records, there are still more than 3,000 Americans currently serving life sentences for non-violent drug crimes.

Obama Commutes Dozens More Sentences Of Nonviolent Drug Offenders

Barack Obama is keeping the commutations rolling during his final year in office. The POTUS commuted the sentences of 214 federal inmates on Wednesday, most of whom were behind bars for nonviolent drug offenses.

Most of these inmates will be released on December 1. The White House confirmed that it was the largest batch of commutations issued by a president in a single day in over a century. During his two terms, Obama has so far granted commutations to 562 people, more than the past nine presidents combined.

"All of the individuals receiving commutation today—incarcerated under outdated and unduly harsh sentencing laws—embody the president's belief that 'America is a nation of second chances,'" wrote White House counsel Neil Eggleston in a blog post.

This year alone, Obama had already commuted the sentences of 58 drug war prisoners in May, and another 42 in June. All of the commutations were granted under his Smart on Crime initiative, which is actively seeking to reduce the current U.S. prison population of more than 2.2 million inmates.

“It just doesn’t make sense to require a nonviolent drug offender to serve 20 years, or in some cases, life, in prison. An excessive punishment like that doesn’t fit the crime. It’s not serving taxpayers, and it’s not making us safer," the president wrote in a post on in May. "As a country, we have to make sure that those who take responsibility for their mistakes are able to transition back to their communities. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do. And it’s something I will keep working to do as long as I hold this office."

But while Obama has helped more nonviolent drug offenders go free than any individual president in nearly a century, many still say it isn’t enough. There are more than 3,000 Americans currently serving life sentences for non-violent crimes—79% of them are for non-violent drug crimes.

“My commutation was denied, as were many others. All deserving,” said Rob, who is doing a life sentence in the feds for a non-violent methamphetamine conspiracy in Arkansas, exclusively to The Fix in June. “I don’t know how they decide who gets a commutation and I’m happy for the men that are being released, but more needs to be done. Me and other men have been in here going on 20 years and more. We need some relief from these unfair sentencing policies. We need to go home to our families too.”

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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.

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