Obama Reduces Drug-related Sentences, Shortens Prison Terms

Obama Reduces Drug-related Sentences, Shortens Prison Terms
U.S. President Obama Speaks at Intel’s Fab 42 Nick Knupffer / Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
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Image from Flickr by Nick Knupffer

On Tuesday, President Obama has shortened the sentences of 22 federal prisoners serving for drug-related charges.


The decision comes after the Obama administration made a move to grant older convicts the same sentence one would receive for a similar crime today.

In a statement, White House Counsel Neil Eggleston said, “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.”

“Because many were convicted under an outdated sentencing regime, they served years—in some cases more than a decade—longer than individuals convicted today of the same crime.”

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Eight of these convicts were serving life sentences, according to USA Today.

A law signed by Obama in 2010 aimed to eliminate the difference between sentences for crack cocaine offenses and ones that involve its powder counterpart.

The Justice Department launched a new clemency initiative last year that urged low-level drug offenders to apply for reduction in their sentences. This led to 6,561 applications recorded in the last fiscal year.

The constitution allows the president the “power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States.”

“One of the extraordinary powers that a president has is the power to commute sentences or to pardon somebody who’s already been sentenced,” Obama said in March in South Carolina.

“A lot of what we’re focused on is non-violent drug offenses where somebody might have gotten 25 years, and she was the girlfriend of somebody and somehow got caught up, and since then has led an exemplary life, but now really wants to be able to start a new career or something like that. That’s the kind of person, typically, that would get through the process.”

The decision was appreciated by groups working towards reforming minimum sentencing laws.

Julie Stewart, president and founder of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, said, “We are thrilled that President Obama is making good on his promise to use the powers granted him by the Constitution to provide relief for federal prisoners serving excessively long mandatory minimum sentences.

“We hope and expect to see more commutations granted through the end of his term.”

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