Criminal justice reform has been a central theme of Barack Obama’s final years in the Oval Office. His focus has been primarily on drug sentences, so-called non-violent offenses in particular. Due to laws known as “mandatory minimums,” judges cannot issue a lesser sentence than is required by law for certain crimes (in many cases, drug related crimes), even when there are extenuating circumstances.
Today, building on his legacy, President Obama set a new record in this realm, using his now-infamous pen and phone.
Via the Washington Times:
President Obama commuted the prison terms for 214 federal inmates Wednesday, the most by a president in a single day in at least a century. Among those granted clemency by Mr. Obama were 67 inmates serving life prison terms, mostly for drug crimes.
The action brings the number of commutations by Mr. Obama to 562, more than the previous nine presidents combined. It’s coupled with his push to reform federal sentencing guidelines for drug crimes.
“I expect the president will continue to grant clemency in a historic and inspiring fashion,” he said.All of the individuals who received commutations Wednesday were jailed “under outdated and unduly harsh sentencing laws,” Mr. Eggleston said.
More than 36,000 federal prisoners have requested volunteer legal advisers to help them prepare clemency requests, and the Clemency Project 2014 said more than 1,500 petitions have been submitted to the Office of the Pardon Attorney, with more to come.Obama now holds the record for the most commuted sentences of any president.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) August 3, 2016
Of course, we don’t exactly know the details of the “non-violent drug crimes” these people committed. As Col. West has previously noted, drug trafficking, for example, can be classified as a “non-violent drug crime.” Meanwhile, “federal prosecutors have warned that drug trafficking is inherently violent and therefore the phrase “non-violent drug offenders” is a misnomer.” We all know from stories out of South America and Mexico how violent those involved in the drug trade can be.
Additionally, if criminal justice reform is necessary, instead of just releasing prisoners, why not try to pass legislation that would alleviate the root causes of mass incarceration? Could it be because he’d have to work with a Republican Congress? This president certainly has made it clear he rather prefers to work alone on so many things.
[Note: This post was authored by Matt Palumbo. Follow him on Twitter @MattPalumbo12]