(WASHINGTON) — President Obama granted commutations of sentences to 58 convicted criminals Thursday, including 18 individuals serving life sentences, boosting his total to 306 granted petitions, more than the previous six presidents combined and the most of any president since Franklin Roosevelt.
“As President, I’ve been working to bring about a more effective approach to our criminal justice system, particularly when it comes to drug crimes,” Obama wrote in a post explaining his decision Thursday.
The president also implored Congress to reform federal sentencing laws, “particularly on overly harsh mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.”
“While I will continue to review clemency applications, only Congress can bring about the lasting changes we need to federal sentencing,” the president noted. “Because it just doesn’t make sense to require a nonviolent drug offender to serve 20 years, or in some cases, life, in prison. An excessive punishment like that doesn’t fit the crime. It’s not serving taxpayers, and it’s not making us safer.”
Obama has received a striking number of petitions for clemency during his tenure: more than 22,000 — more than double the number received during President George W. Bush’s administration.
Nearly all of those granted commutations of sentences Thursday were convicted of drug-related offenses, mostly for possession or conspiring to distribute cocaine, crack, methamphetamine, heroin, piperidinocyclohexane-carbonitrile (PCP) and marijuana.
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