President Obama Just Took an Important Step for Criminal Justice

December 18th 2015

President Barack Obama shortened the sentences of 95 federal prisoners and pardoned two others on Friday, raising the total number of commutations under his administration to 184—more than the last five presidents combined.

RELATED: Pres. Obama Just Took A Huge Step Toward Criminal Justice Reform

The majority of those granted commuted sentences are non-violent drug offenses who had served at least 10 years and behaved well in prison. The move comes as a sign of Obama's continued commitment to criminal justice reform, The New York Times reports.

White HouseWhite House - whitehouse.gov

"I am granting your application because you have demonstrated the potential to turn your life around," Obama wrote in a letter sent to each of the 95 federal inmates. "Now it is up to you to make the most of this opportunity."

letterWhite House - whitehouse.gov

Most of the men and women whose sentences were reduced can expect to be released by April 2016.

"President Obama is committed to restoring the sense of fairness at the heart of our justice system," the White House announced. "Most of the commutations the President has granted have been to non-violent offenders sentenced under those unjust—and now outdated—drug crime sentencing rules. If these individuals had been convicted for the exact same crime under today's laws, nearly all of them would have already finished serving their time."

With more than 2.2 million people behind bars in the U.S., this round of commutations does not represent a long-term strategy to solve the country's mass incarceration problem, but it does reinforce the president's message about the need for criminal justice reform, including the amendment of harsh drug laws.

RELATED: Here are President Obama's Plans for Non Violent Drug Offenders

"The theory is not that this by itself is going to make a dent in the prison population—this is part of an overall approach," White House counsel W. Neil Eggleston told The New York Times. "He thinks it fits into the broader effort of criminal justice reform. What it does show is, on a very individual basis, the way some sentences in the past have been excessive and far outweighed the seriousness of the crime."

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