Obama Commutes 214 Non-Violent Drug Crimes
Long Story Short
On August 3 President Obama commuted the sentences of 214 prisoners. Each of those prisoners were serving sentences that the President and the Department of Justice decided were too long or too harsh. A huge number of those who had their sentences commuted were in for non-violent drug offenses.
Yesterday’s decision came as part of President Obama’s ongoing efforts to reduce the number of non-violent offenders behind bars.
Back in 2014, he launched The Clemency Project. In the context of that project, he asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to review petitions for commutations from inmates around the country. The DOJ started with prisoners who are locked up for non-violent offenses.
Many of those prisoners are in for drug crimes. And in most cases, they’re serving sentences that are much harsher than they would be under today’s drug laws.
President Obama’s decision yesterday gave commutations to 214 federal prisoners. Some of them will be released right away. Others will receive reduced sentences that are more in line with today’s sentencing laws. People who were given reduced time will still have to finish out their new sentences.
Of the 214 inmates who received commutations, 67 of them were serving life sentences. Once again, a huge proportion of them were in for non-violent drug crimes.
A Historic Move
With this latest round of commutations, President Obama has granted a total of 562 commutations. Out of that number, 197 of them were life sentences.
These are historic numbers. For starters, Obama has now granted more commutations than the previous nine presidents combined.
It also makes him the President who’s given the most commutations in almost an entire century. And yesterday’s decision to give 214 commutations is the most in a single day since 1900.
Is It Enough?
The Clemency Project and yesterday’s commutations are all part of a larger attempt to address mass incarceration in the United States. Currently, the U.S. incarcerates people at a higher rate than any other country in the world.
Despite the fact that President Obama has now given out 562 commutations, many critics say it still falls short. When Obama first started The Clemency Project, he said he wanted to commute the sentences of 10,000 prisoners. Obviously, 562 isn’t even close.
Many critics of mass incarceration and the War on Drugs say that more is needed than commuting the sentences of non-violent drug offenders. These critics say that it’s time to abandon the War on Drugs altogether.