US President Obama commuted the sentences of 214 federal prisoners
Wednesday, the largest single-day grant of commutations in the nation’s
history. He has 562 total commutations during his presidency — most of
which have come in the past year . Obama has now used his constitutional
clemency power to shorten the sentences of more federal inmates than 9
past presidents combined.
The early release of the 214 prisoners, mostly low-level drug offenders
and non violent offenders, is part of Obama’s effort to correct what he
views as unreasonably long mandatory minimum sentences to those inmates.
Some date back decades, including 71-year-old Richard L. Reser of
Sedgwick, Kan., who was given a 40-year sentence for dealing
methamphatamine and firearm possession in 1989. He’ll be released Dec.
Obama said in a Facebook post:
“The more we understand the human stories behind this problem, the
sooner we can start making real changes that keep our streets safe,
break the cycle of incarceration in this country, and save taxpayers
like you money,”
The president’s clemency power usually takes one of two forms: Pardons,
which give offenders a full legal forgiveness for their crimes, and
commutations, which shorten prison sentences but often leave other
conditions intact. Many of those granted commutations Wednesday will
remain under court supervision even after release.
He shared a letter he received from a prisoner he pardoned and wrote on FB:
A few months ago, I received this letter from a Floridian named Sherman
Chester. When Sherman was a young man, he wrote, he made some bad
choices, got in over his head, and ended up with a life sentence without
parole for a nonviolent drug charge. At Sherman’s sentencing, even the
judge couldn’t believe he was bound by law to hand down a punishment
that didn’t fit the crime.
We know that Sherman…’s
story is all too common in this country — a country that imprisons its
citizens at a rate far higher than any other. Too many men and women
end up in a criminal justice system that serves up excessive
punishments, especially for nonviolent drug offenses.
But this is a country that believes in second chances. So we’ve got to
make sure that our criminal justice system works for everyone. We’ve got
to make sure that it keeps our streets safe while also making sure that
an entire class of people like Sherman isn’t relegated to a life on the
Last year, after he served more than 20 long years in prison, I
commuted Sherman’s sentence and those of many others who were serving
unjust and outdated prison sentences.
And today, I’m commuting the sentences of an additional 214 men and
women who are just as deserving of a second chance. Altogether, I’ve
commuted more sentences than the past nine presidents combined, and I am
not done yet.
These acts of clemency are important steps for families like Sherman’s
and steer our country in a better direction, but they alone won’t fix
our criminal justice system. We need Congress to pass meaningful federal
sentencing reform that will allow us to more effectively use taxpayer
dollars to protect the public.
I hope you’ll take a minute to read and share Sherman’s letter. The
more we understand the human stories behind this problem, the sooner we
can start making real changes that keep our streets safe, break the
cycle of incarceration in this country, and save taxpayers like you