Obama commutes sentences of 46 non-violent offenders, including people serving life sentences for drug-related crimes

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07/15/2015
Sergio D'Elia

Obama commutes sentences of 46 non-violent offenders, including people serving life sentences for drug-related crimes


On 13 July 2015, President Barack Obama cut the prison sentences of 46 non-violent offenders, including five serving life sentences, saying “their punishments didn’t fit the crime.” “As a former Assistant U.S. Attorney and criminal defense attorney, I’m well acquainted with how federal sentencing practices can, in too many instances, lead nonviolent drug offenders to spend decades, if not life, in prison... In some cases, the punishment required by law far exceeded the offense”, said the President in a video address.

Obama has now issued 89 commutations during his presidency, including 76 to non-violent offenders sentenced for drug crimes under the harsh guidelines put in place in the late 1980s as the country was grappling with the crack cocaine epidemic. Last commutations mark the most in a single day since the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson, and the 89 commutations Obama has granted while in office surpassed the combined number granted by presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

The commutations come as the administration is working to reduce costs and overcrowding in federal prisons and to provide relief to inmates. However, it's only a drop in the sea of the prison population, as the United States has less than 5% of the world’s population, yet it has almost 25 percent of the world’s total prison population.

 

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