President Obama‘s steadily crossing items off his checklist during his last year in office. On Tuesday, he made major progress towards one goal, which is to cut short the federal prison sentences for as many low-level drug offenders as possible. Not that he hadn’t already made a substantial move in that direction. Earlier this month, he made the largest one-day commutation in history by dispensing with 214 federal sentences at once. He decided to finish the month even bigger.
Tuesday saw Obama commute 111 more federal sentences, the majority of which were issued for nonviolent drug charges. Thirty-nine of these prisoners were serving life sentences, and this brings this month’s clemency total to 325 inmates. According to the official White House statement, this not only counts as the biggest one-month commutation ever but is a greater number than any president has bestowed on an annual basis for almost a century. In addition, Obama’s total number of clemency grants — 673 — is more than the combined total from the last 10 presidents:
Today’s 111 commutation grants underscore the President’s commitment to using his clemency authority to provide a second chance to deserving individuals. To date, President Obama has granted 673 commutations: more commutations than the previous ten presidents combined. More than one-third of the President’s commutation recipients, or 232 individuals, were serving life sentences.
Obama’s goal with most of these clemency grants is to apply the same sentences to nonviolent drug offenders as if they were convicted today. And NPR reveals that Obama’s not done yet. He’s working with the Department of Justice to clear the backlog of thousands of applications from other drug offenders. According to Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates, the DOJ hopes to push through all of these cases before Obama leaves office next year. Yates believes they’re on track to finish on time.