President Obama today commuted the sentences of 22 convicted federal drug offenders, including eight serving life sentences. This action doubles the number of commutations the President has issued since taking office in 2009, and is double the total amount of commutations given out by former President Bush during his eight years in office.
“Had they been sentenced under current laws and policies, many of these individuals would have already served their time and paid their debt to society,” White House counsel Neil Eggleston said in a statement announcing the commutations. “Because many were convicted under an outdated sentencing regime, they served years — in some cases more than a decade — longer than individuals convicted today of the same crime.”
Of the 22 individuals whose sentences were commuted, eight were serving life sentences; six for crack cocaine offenses, one for a meth offense and one for the cultivation of over a thousand cannabis plants.
Eggleston notes that while today’s announcement represents progress, there’s more work ahead.
“The Administration will continue to work to review thoroughly all petitions for clemency”, he says. “And, while commutation is an important tool for those seeking justice and fairness in our penal system, it is nearly always an option of last resort, coming after a lengthy court process and many years behind bars. That is why President Obama is committed to working with Democrats and Republicans on sensible reforms to our criminal justice system that aim to give judges more discretion over mandatory minimum sentencing. As the Department of Justice has noted, mandatory minimum sentences have at times resulted in harsher penalties for non-violent drug offenders than many violent offenders and are not necessary for prosecutions at this level.”
Further information on the sentences that were commuted can be found by clicking here.