President Barack Obama is not playing around. With less than six months left in the White House, he is taking no prisoners. In fact, he is releasing them.
Christmas came early for the 214 federal inmates across the nation who received this short, sweet note from the president: Your application for clemency has been granted.
Included in this group were 67 serving life sentences, most of which were related to nonviolent drug offenses.
According to the White House:
“To date, President Obama has granted 562 commutations: more commutations than the previous nine presidents combined and more commutations than any individual president in nearly a century. Of those, 197 individuals were serving life sentences. And, today’s 214 grants of commutation also represent the most grants in a single day since at least 1900. That being said, our work is far from finished. I expect the President will continue to grant clemency in a historic and inspiring fashion.”
The president began turning his attention to revolutionizing clemency in 2014. At that time he directed the Department of Justice to change its approach to clemency. Breaking with past presidents, he told the DOJ to prioritize petitions for commutations from individuals convicted of non-violent drug offenses who if convicted today would have shorter sentences.
The White House explained the president’s approach to granting commutations this way:
“In each of these cases, the President examines the application on its individual merits. As a result, the relief afforded is tailored specifically to each applicant’s case. While some commutation recipients will begin to process out of federal custody immediately, others will serve more time.
“For some, the President believes that the applicant’s successful re-entry will be aided with additional drug treatment, and the President has conditioned those commutations on an applicant’s seeking that treatment. For others, the President has commuted their sentences to a significantly reduced term so they are consistent with present-day sentencing policies. While these term reductions will require applicants to serve additional time, it will also allow applicants to continue their rehabilitation by completing educational and self-improvement programming and to participate in drug or other counseling services. Underlying all the President’s commutation decisions is the belief that these deserving individuals should be given the tools to succeed in their second chance.”