[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official website] on Tuesday granted clemency [press release] to 111 non-violent criminal offenders, including 35 federal offenders serving life sentences. These new grants of clemency bring Obama’s total to 673, including 325 in the month of August alone. Mostly drug offenders, the commuted sentences are part of Obama’s ongoing effort to reduce the size of the nation’s prison population. At a news conference earlier this month, Obama explained [press release] the sentence excusals: “I thought it was very important for us to send a clear message that we believe in the principles behind criminal justice reform.” A corollary to Obama’s commutations, various measures [House Judiciary Committee backgrounder], seeking to reform the criminal justice system, are working their way through the legislature.
This is the latest effort of the Obama administration to encourage criminal justice reform efforts [WH backgrounder]. Earlier this month Obama granted clemency [JURIST report] to 214 federal inmates. In June the Obama administration announced [JURIST report] a number of programs focused on better reintroducing released prisoners into the community. In January Obama ordered [WP report] the Attorney General to review the use of solitary confinement. Conservative groups have criticized [Daily Signal report] Obama’s efforts as harming law enforcement’s abilities to “dismantle and disrupt drug trafficking organizations.” Republicans have also insisted on requiring federal prosecutors to “prove that white-collar defendants acted knowingly to violate the law,” but the administration and Democrats maintain [The Hill report] that those provisions would make it harder for the government to prosecute corporate crimes.