Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 214 federal prisoners today (Aug. 3), the largest single-day batch since 1900, according to the White House. It’s part of Obama’s effort to mitigate the effects of past harsh sentencing, especially for nonviolent drug crimes.
“All of the individuals receiving commutation today, incarcerated under outdated and unduly harsh sentencing laws, embody the President’s belief that ‘America is a nation of second chances,'” said White House counsel Neil Eggleston. Sixty-seven of the people freed were serving life sentences.
The White House said Obama’s commutation tally of 562 is higher than the last nine presidents combined.
Buzzfeed, which broke the news, points out that Gerald Ford’s administration wiped out the convictions of an entire category of individuals: 14,000 people convicted of dodging the Vietnam draft or deserting from the military.
When it comes to pardons—a presidential decree that erases a conviction completely—Obama has been much less merciful than his predecessors.