President Obama announced on Monday that he was commuting the sentences of 46 federal drug offenders, more than doubling the number of nonviolent criminals to whom he has granted clemency since taking office.
“These men and women were not violent criminals, but the overwhelming majority had been sentenced to at least 20 years; 14 of them had been sentenced to life for nonviolent drug offenses, so their punishments didn’t fit the crime,” Mr. Obama said in a video released on the White House Facebook page, in which he is shown signing the commutation letters.
“I believe that America, at its heart, is a nation of second chances, and I believe these folks deserve their second chance.”
According to New York Times, the commutations are part of a second-term push by Mr. Obama to use clemency to correct what he sees as the excesses of the past, when politicians eager to be tough on crime threw away the key even for minor criminals.
As a result, African-American and Hispanic men were disproportionately affected.
Mr. Obama has already commuted the sentences of 43 prisoners, as part of an initiative begun last year by James M. Cole, the deputy attorney general at the time, who set criteria for who might qualify: generally nonviolent inmates who have served more than 10 years in prison; have behaved well while incarcerated; and who would not have received as lengthy a sentence under today’s revised sentencing rules.
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