President Obama Continues To Commute Sentences For Nonviolent Drug Offenders

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President Obama Continues To Commute Sentences For Nonviolent Drug Offenders

By Seth Ferranti 10/10/16

Obama has now commuted 774 sentences during his presidency.

President Obama Continues To Commute Sentences For Nonviolent Drug Offenders

Some might say that President Obama issuing pardons is old hat. But after more than 30 years of a so-called drug war that has needlessly sent first-time, non-violent offenders and substance users to prison for decades of their lives, what Obama is doing is just the tip of the iceberg.

The president commuted the sentences of 102 more federal prisoners last Thursday, raising his total of clemencies granted to 774. This is a tremendous total in comparison to his recent predecessors. The Obama administration has gone above and beyond the call, and with celebrities like Jay Z, T.I., and Piper Kerman also speaking up, a new direction has seemingly been announced. 

“We’ve known for quite a while that too many low-level offenders were getting absurdly long sentences,” Kevin Ring, vice president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a group that has fought for sentencing reform for more than 20 years, told The Washington Post. “To see some finally getting fairer sentences is exciting ... President Obama has the power to fix past mistakes, but only Congress can prevent future ones.”

Since launching the Clemency Project in 2014, Obama has streamlined the pardoning process of trying to give relief to the tens of thousands of over-sentenced, non-violent drug offenders confined in the Bureau of Prisons. As our government attempts to transition from a tough-on-crime to smart-on-crime stance, the ones being left behind and forgotten are the ones doing time. They're men and women in prison for years longer than they should have been for the crimes they committed. And if sentenced today, they would have received a significantly lowered sentence. The prisoners of the drug war. 

“Beyond the statistics, though, are stories of individuals who have overcome the longest of odds to earn this second chance,” White House Counsel W. Neil Eggleston said, according to the Post. “The individuals receiving commutation today are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, and in some cases grandparents. Today, they and their loved ones share the joy of knowing that they will soon be reunited.”

Mass incarceration has devastated generations of families and President Obama knows it. One of the men who Obama granted clemency to was Ricky Minor, a 53-year-old serving a mandatory life sentence without parole for attempting to manufacture methamphetamine. Imprisoned since 2001, Minor was, in effect, sentenced to die in prison.

“More than 15 years after Ricky was sent to prison forever, President Obama has given him a chance to rejoin his family and rebuild a life ravaged by the failed war on drugs,” said Emma Andersson, a staff lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union Criminal Law Reform Project who was Minor’s attorney. “Ricky Minor was supposed to die in prison because he committed a nonviolent drug offense — a punishment far too harsh for the crime.” Injustices that President Obama is attempting to correct.

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