[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official website] commuted [report] the sentences of 214 federal inmates on Thursday, the most at one time during his presidency. Sixty-seven of the inmates whose sentences were commuted were serving life sentences for non-violent drug crimes. The most recent grant of clemency highlights Obama’s call to the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] to prioritize petitions for commutations by non-violent drug-felons who are facing heightened sentences, based on “outdated and unduly harsh” sentencing laws. Obama has now commuted the sentences of 562 individuals, more than the last nine presidents combined. The report ended with a call to the House and Senate [official websites] to craft a bi-partisan criminal justice reform bill for the president to sign.
This is the latest effort of the Obama Administration to encourage criminal justice reform efforts [WH backgrounder]. 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] the 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.