President Barack Obama Shortens Prison Sentences for 61 Drug Offenders

Obama Prison Drug Offenders
President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House on March 30, 2016 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)

article by Josh Lederman, AP via

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Wednesday commuted the prison sentences of 61 drug offenders, including more than a third serving life sentences, giving new energy to calls for overhauling the U.S. criminal justice system.

All of the inmates are serving time for drug possession, intent to sell or related crimes. Most are nonviolent offenders, although a few were also charged with firearms violations. Obama’s commutation shortens their sentences, with most of the inmates set to be released on July 28.

Obama has long called for getting rid of strict sentences for drug offenses that critics say lead to excessive punishment and sky-high incarceration rates. With Obama’s support, the Justice Department in recent years has directed prosecutors to rein in the use of harsh mandatory minimums and expanded the criteria for inmates applying for clemency.

Though there’s wide bipartisan support in Congress for overhauling the criminal justice system, momentum has slowed as the chaotic presidential campaign has made cooperation between Republicans and Democrats increasingly difficult.

Obama, in a letter to the inmates, said the presidential power to grant commutations and pardons “embodies the basic belief in our democracy that people deserve a second chance after having made a mistake in their lives that led to a conviction under our laws.”

Obama met for lunch Wednesday with people whose sentences were previously commuted to hear about the challenges of re-entering society.

The latest commutations bring to 248 the total number of inmates whose sentences Obama has commuted, more than the past six presidents combined, the White House said. The pace of commutations and the rarer use of pardons are expected to increase as the end of Obama’s presidency nears.

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4 thoughts on “President Barack Obama Shortens Prison Sentences for 61 Drug Offenders”

  1. It is good that Obama is granting clemency to more individuals, but this is truly just a drop in the bucket. There are so many cases at the state level that Obama can do nothing about. Obama only has jurisdiction at the federal level. As well, many crimes considered “violent” should be considered. Let me give you an example…Lenny Singleton.

    Lenny committed 8 “grab & dash” robberies in a 7 day period while high on alcohol and crack to fund his addiction. He did not have a gun. He did not murder anyone. In fact, no one was even physically injured. He stole less than $550 and these were his first felonies. He earned a college degree and served in our Navy before his addiction. What he needed was some help.

    What he got was 2 Life Sentences plus 100 years with no chance of parole. The judge, without any explanation to Lenny or the courtroom as documented by his court transcripts, sentenced Lenny to more time than repeat violent offenders, rapists, child molesters and murderers. Murderers will walk free while Lenny remains in prison.

    While in prison, Lenny works every business day, lives in the Honor’s Dorm, takes every available class for self-improvement offered, and in his spare time, he has co-authored a book to help others heading down the same path called, “Love Conquers All,” now available on Amazon. During the entire 20+ years he has been in prison so far, he has not received a single infraction for anything – rare for lifers. He is deserving of a second chance.

    How does it cost you? Taxpayers will pay well over a million dollars to keep Lenny for the rest of his life for stealing less than $550 in crimes where no one was even physically injured. This makes absolutely no sense. When you take just this one example and multiple it by literally thousands of cases all across this country, you get an idea of the bigger picture. This money would be better spent on rehabilitation services, preventative education or rebuilding infrastructure – anything other than keeping one man who has served more than enough time for his crimes locked up for life. It is time for true criminal justice reform! States need to be examining their own extreme sentences and granting clemency to those that deserve it.

    Please learn more and sign Lenny’s petition at Justice will not have been served if Lenny dies in prison.

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