Obama Commutes Sentences for 46 Drug Offenders

13 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Obama Commutes Sentences for 46 Nonviolent Drug Offenders.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama cut the prison sentences of 46 non-violent offenders on Monday, including 14 who were serving life sentences, saying “their punishments didn’t fit the crime.” “These men and women were not hardened criminals,” Obama said in a video released by the White House. At a White House conference on aging, Obama called on the nation to take proactive steps to address rising costs, protect Social Security, train more home health care workers and help seniors remain active contributors to their communities. But the overwhelming majority had to be sentenced to at least 20 years,” he said, noting that in his letters to them he made sure they needed to make different choices now that they were free.”But I believe that at its heart, America’s a nation of second chances.

Obama has now issued nearly 90 commutations during his presidency, most of them to non-violent offenders sentenced for drug crimes under outdated sentencing guidelines. And I believe these folks deserve their second chance.” Monday’s 46 commutations mark the most in a single day since at least the administration of President Lyndon Johnson. The vast majority of those receiving commutations had been sentenced to more than 20 years in jail for their drug offenses, while 14 had received life sentences. Ahead of this year’s summit, Obama wrote in an editorial for the AARP website about the importance of making sure that a lifetime of hard work is rewarded “with a retirement that is secure and dignified.” The president has asked the Labor Department to crack down on conflicts of interest in the retirement savings advice people may get from financial advisers.

In his speech to the summit, Obama also praised Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the “toughest” member of the high court, noting her popular nickname as “the notorious RBG.” But he also said that Obama’s powers to fix the problem were limited, adding that “clemency alone will not fix decades of overly punitive sentencing policies.” Obama this week is devoting considerable attention to the criminal justice system. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama will present ideas for a “safer, fairer and more effective” justice system during a speech Tuesday in Philadelphia at the annual convention of the NAACP. And on Thursday, he is to become the first sitting president to visit a federal prison when he goes to the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution outside of Oklahoma City.

Leading Republicans, including Senator Mike Lee of Utah and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, of Virginia, have said they would support legislation reducing sentences for nonviolent crimes. At that time, White House counsel Neil Eggleston said that under current sentencing guidelines, many of the individuals granted clemency would have already served their time in prison. Last year, the Justice Department said it would encourage drug offenders without gang ties or a history of violent criminal behavior to apply for the clemency program.

The program is intended to benefit people who have served more than a decade in jail with good conduct and who would be eligible for shorter sentences today. In 2010, Obama signed legislation that reduced harsher sentences for possession of crack cocaine, compared to equivalent amounts of the powder form of the drug. The administration announced in 2014 new rules to ensure that people who commit relatively minor, nonviolent drug offenses would no longer be charged with federal crimes carrying strict mandatory minimum sentences. While advocates for inmates have praised the efforts by the Obama administration to provide relief to prisoners who received severe sentences, they have also complained that the massive number of applications from prisoners and the complicated review process has slowed the effort. I’m so happy to see these people go home, but I can’t help but also think about the mothers and fathers who will be sentenced today, and tomorrow, to the same excessively long prison terms. “Ultimately, no number of commutations can mitigate the continuing impact of excessively harsh drug mandatory minimums, which is why we need to reform sentencing policies.”

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