President Obama has commuted the sentences of 111 people in federal prison over nonviolent drug crimes. 35 of these people were serving life sentences, meaning they would have died in prison if Obama didn’t grant them this pardon.
The 111 commutations brings Obama’s August total to 325, the most ever in a single month. On August 4th he commuted the sentences of 214 people, which was the largest single-day grant of commutations in United States history (67 of these commutations were life sentences). In total, Obama has commuted the sentences of 673 people, well more than the past nine presidents combined.
They are individuals who received unduly harsh sentences under outdated laws for committing largely nonviolent drug crimes, for example, the 35 individuals whose life sentences were commuted today. For each of these applicants, the President considers the individual merits of each application to determine that an applicant is ready to make use of his or her second chance.
While I expect that the President will continue to grant commutations through the end of this administration, the individualized nature of this relief highlights the need for bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation, including reforms that address excessive mandatory minimum sentences. Only the passage of legislation can achieve the broader reforms needed to ensure our federal sentencing system operates more fairly and effectively in the service of public safety.