President Obama is leaving many things behind as part of his legacy as a successful and popular two-term president. One of the things he has achieved was to lower the federal prison population. As he prepares to leave office, the number of individuals in federal prisons is smaller than when he was sworn in. Eight years of liberal policies for criminal justice have had an effect on the situation in federal prisons. The country has also seen historically low crime rates. Another factor was the use of clemency by the President, who made liberal use of presidential commutations.
Barack Obama Lowered the Federal Prison Population
This Tuesday, Barack Obama granted clemency to a large number of federal prisoners. Seventy-nine people received a presidential commutation of their prison sentence. This brings his total to over 1,000 inmates that he has granted clemency to over the course of his presidency. Most of these federal prisoners were serving long prison terms for non-violent drug offenses. They had received strict sentences during the war on drugs.
The courts have granted early release to an additional 13,000 people, says the Justice Department. Overall, Obama’s policies served to lower the federal prison population. But the next attorney general has a different take on the issue. Things started looking like they were about to change when President-elect Donald Trump announced his pick for the office of attorney general. Jeff Sessions is the Senator of Alabama that is going to be in charge of the Justice Department in the future Trump administration.
Jeff Sessions strongly opposes the liberal approach that Barack Obama had towards criminal justice. He is in favor of a strong enforcement of existing drug laws. Also, he supports the use of mandatory minimum sentences.
Jeff Sessions Could Change Course at Justice Department
Part of the work that Barack Obama has accomplished in his effort to lower the prison population in America could be undone by the new attorney general. The policies of the Justice Department that advise against seeking a mandatory minimum sentence by default can be easily torn up. However, some of the changes he has made are likely to stay. Regardless of the objectives of the next administrations, the new sentencing guidelines will be difficult to reverse. The new guidelines will have a lasting effect on criminal justice in the United States.
However, the next president is unlikely to be as involved as Barack Obama with efforts to reduce the country’s prison population. A Harvard Law School graduate, Obama tried to ingrain more liberal values into the American justice system. Officials at the White House are already anticipating the end of an era.
“I can’t speak to what the next president is going to do. I can’t speak to whether the next administration will have a similar level of enthusiasm.”
said White House counsel, W. Neil Eggleston.
Barack Obama and those who have been in charge of the Justice Department during his administration have a liberal view of sentencing. They see long mandatory sentences for non-violent drug crimes to be a legacy of the past that is now out of place. However, Jeff Sessions believes that only a strict enforcement of the law is effective in lowering crime rates.
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