U.S. President Barack Obama cut short the sentences of 111 federal inmates Tuesday, in another round of commutations for those convicted of nonviolent drug offenses.
The early release is part of Obama’s effort to correct what he views as unreasonably long mandatory minimum sentences.
His push to lessen the burden on nonviolent drug offenders reflects his long-stated view that the nation should remedy the consequences of decades of onerous sentencing rules that have put tens of thousands of Americans behind bars for far too long.
Among those granted shorter sentences Tuesday were people convicted of drug offenses for trafficking cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine. But sixteen of the commutations included firearms offenses.
White House Counsel Neil Eggleston said Obama has granted 673 commutations, more than the previous 10 presidents combined. More than one-third of the recipients were serving life sentences.
«We must remember that these are individuals — sons, daughters, parents and, in many cases, grandparents — who have taken steps toward rehabilitation and who have earned their second chance,» Eggleston said. «They are individuals who received unduly harsh sentences under outdated laws for committing largely nonviolent drug crimes.»
Obama has long called for phasing out strict sentences for drug offenses, arguing that they lead to excessive punishment and incarceration rates unseen in other developed countries. With presidential support, the Justice Department in recent years has directed prosecutors to rein in the use of harsh mandatory minimums.
Presidents tend to use their powers to commute sentences or issue pardons more frequently near the end of their terms of office. Administration officials say the rapid pace will continue before Obama leaves the White House in January 2017.