US President Obama commuted the sentences of 214 federal
prisoners Wednesday, the largest single-day grant of commutations
in the nationâ€™s history.Â He has 562
total commutations during his presidency â€” most
of which have come in the past year . Obama has now used his
constitutional clemency power to shorten the sentences of more
federal inmatesÂ than 9 past presidents combined.
The early release of the 214 prisoners, mostly low-level drug offenders and non violent offenders, is part of Obamaâ€™s effort to correct what he views as unreasonably long mandatory minimum sentences to those inmates. Some date back decades, including 71-year-old Richard L. Reser of Sedgwick, Kan., who was given a 40-year sentence for dealing methamphatamine and firearm possession in 1989. Heâ€™ll be released Dec. 1.
Obama said in a Facebook post:
â€œThe more we understand the human stories behind this problem, the sooner we can start making real changes that keep our streets safe, break the cycle of incarceration in this country, and save taxpayers like you money,â€
The presidentâ€™s clemency power usually takes one of two forms: Pardons, which give offenders a full legal forgiveness for their crimes, and commutations, which shorten prison sentences but often leave other conditions intact. Many of those granted commutations Wednesday will remain under court supervision even after release.
He shared a letter he receivedÂ from a prisoner he pardoned and wrote on FB:
A few months ago, I received this letter from a Floridian named Sherman Chester. When Sherman was a young man, he wrote, he made some bad choices, got in over his head, and ended up with a life sentence without parole for a nonviolent drug charge. At Shermanâ€™s sentencing, even the judge couldnâ€™t believe he was bound by law to hand down a punishment that didnâ€™t fit the crime.
We know that Shermanâ€¦â€˜s story is all too common in this country â€” a country that imprisons its citizens at a rate far higher than any other. Too many men and women end up in a criminal justice system that serves up excessive punishments, especially for nonviolent drug offenses.
But this is a country that believes in second chances. So weâ€™ve got to make sure that our criminal justice system works for everyone. Weâ€™ve got to make sure that it keeps our streets safe while also making sure that an entire class of people like Sherman isnâ€™t relegated to a life on the margins.
Â Last year, after he served more than 20 long years in prison, I commuted Shermanâ€™s sentence and those of many others who were serving unjust and outdated prison sentences.
Â And today, Iâ€™m commuting the sentences of an additional 214 men and women who are just as deserving of a second chance. Altogether, Iâ€™ve commuted more sentences than the past nine presidents combined, and I am not done yet.
These acts of clemency are important steps for families like Shermanâ€™s and steer our country in a better direction, but they alone wonâ€™t fix our criminal justice system. We need Congress to pass meaningful federal sentencing reform that will allow us to more effectively use taxpayer dollars to protect the public.
I hope youâ€™ll take a minute to read and share Shermanâ€™s letter. The more we understand the human stories behind this problem, the sooner we can start making real changes that keep our streets safe, break the cycle of incarceration in this country, and save taxpayers like you money.