This Thursday, President Barack Obama granted clemency to 102 inmates. This is another decision in a series of moves to release certain federal inmates. Benefiting from the president’s clemency are federal inmates currently serving a long prison term for drug offences that were nonviolent.
White House officials said that Barack Obama is going to continue granting commutations for federal drug offenders. He has until January of next year to do it, but the president is committed to using all of his time. So there will be more commutations of sentences for federal drug offenders.
Individual Stories of Federal Drug Offenders
So far, Barack Obama has commuted the sentences for 774 federal inmates. That is more than the last eleven presidents combined. This year he has commuted the sentences for 590 people. The it is the highest number of individual commutations in just one year in the entire history of the United States.
Neil Eggleston serves as Counsel at the White House. He is familiar with the personal stories behind these commutations. He said that the individuals who were receiving commutations were “mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, and in some cases grandparents”. They and loved ones now can be happy that they will soon be together again. Eggleston said that it’s important to look beyond the statistics. If we do that, we can see individuals that have overcome difficult odds to earn a second chance for themselves.
One of the federal drug offenders that is going to receive a commutation is Ricky Minor. He is 53 and has been serving a hard sentence since 2001. Minor’s sentence is mandatory. It is life without parole for an attempt to manufacture methamphetamine.
Emma Andersson is a staff lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union Criminal Law Reform Project. She was Ricky Minor’s lawyer at his trial. She said that her client was supposed to die in prison according to the sentencing. Even though he had committed a nonviolent drug offense. Anderson feels that he punishment was too harsh for the crime. She expressed her gratitude that 15 years after Ricky Minor was sent to prison, President Barack Obama commuted his sentence. Now her client has the opportunity to rejoin his family. He also has the chance to rebuild his life, that was “ravaged by the failed war on drugs”.
An Initiative Started in 2014
For the last three months, Barack Obama has increased the number of commutations he is granting. The increase is significant and it is part of an initiative that the White House launched in April 2014. The initiative aims the provide relief to federal drug offenders. The ones that are in jail for nonviolent crimes and who, under today’s laws regarding drugs, would receive a sentence for significantly less time.
Advocates for sentencing reform are urging the Justice Department to be quicker with reviewing clemency requests. The number of requests are in the thousands, mostly coming in from individual prisoners. Some of the requests are from the Clemency Project 2014. The Clemency Project 2014 is basically a large group of attorneys from all over the country that are working pro bono in these clemency situations. They represent the inmates and help them with preparing petitions.
On Thursday, Sally Q. Yates, who is Deputy Attorney General said that the Justice Department was making great progress with reviewing applications.
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