US president Barack Obama announced that he commuted 46 sentences for non-violent federal drug offenders, as part of the administration’s larger push to reduce the prison population and alleviate the effects of past harsh sentencing laws.
The decision comes as Obama prepares for his visit to a federal prison on July 16—which would make him the first sitting president to do so. Tomorrow, he will speak at a convention for US civil rights organization the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), where he said he will lay out his ideas for criminal justice reform.
“Their punishments didn’t fit the crime,” Obama says in a White House Facebook video about the commutations. “I believe that America is a nation of second chances.”
To date, Obama has commuted nearly 90 sentences, most of them for non-violent drug offenses. More than 35,000 inmates applied for clemency since the administration announced its intention to commute sentences for drug crimes.
Nearly half of federal prisoners are serving time for drug offenses, and many receive mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses according to harsh laws enacted during the war on drugs in the 1980s.
The president sent out letters to each of the 46 people granted clemency, warning them of upcoming hardships, and wishing them good luck: