Home Daily Blitz With Hands Tied on Justice Reform, Obama Just Shortened 214 Prisoners’ Sentences

With Hands Tied on Justice Reform, Obama Just Shortened 214 Prisoners’ Sentences


slate articleThe following is an excerpt from Leon Neyfakh | August 3, 2016 | Slate.com |

President Obama has used his clemency power to shorten the prison sentences of 214 federal inmates doing time for drug offenses, it was announced on Wednesday. It’s Obama’s third time this year issuing commutations, a move that reflects his administration’s belief that too many people are serving overly harsh prison sentences because of a criminal justice system that is too tough on nonviolent crime.

Wednesday’s batch of commutations brings the total number of people whose sentences Obama has shortened to 562—more than the previous nine presidents combined, according to the White House. Among them, more than a third were serving life sentences.

According to the AP, most of the 214 people whose sentences were commuted Wednesday will be getting out of prison in December. For others, it will take much longer: the Huffington Post highlights an individual who was sentenced to life in 2009 for intent to distribute large quantities of marijuana and will now be serving a measly 30-year bid.

Using his power to shorten sentences, as well as clear the records of people who have paid their debt to society, is one of the few avenues the president has to advance his agenda on criminal justice reform, which has otherwise stalled thanks to disagreements in Congress over a set of sentencing bills aimed at making the system slightly less punitive. Against this backdrop of inaction, advocates have urged Obama to be even more aggressive with his use of the clemency power, arguing that there are between 1,000 and 2,000 inmates in the federal system serving sentences that are longer than what they’d receive if they were sentenced under today’s laws and punishment guidelines.

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