Today, President Obama granted commutations to another 102 individuals who have demonstrated that they are deserving of a second chance at freedom. The vast majority of today’s grants were for individuals serving unduly harsh sentences for drug-related crimes under outdated sentencing laws. With today’s grants, the President has commuted 774 sentences, more than the previous 11 presidents combined. With a total of 590 commutations this year, President Obama has now commuted the sentences of more individuals in one year than in any other single year in our nation’s history.
While he will continue to review cases on an individualized basis throughout the remainder of his term, these statistics make clear that the President and his administration have succeeded in efforts to reinvigorate the clemency process. Beyond the statistics, though, are stories of individuals who have overcome the longest of odds to earn this second chance. The individuals receiving commutation today are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, and in some cases grandparents. Today, they and their loved ones share the joy of knowing that they will soon be reunited.
Commutations can be a powerful tool to rectify specific cases, but the individualized nature of this relief highlights the need for bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation. These include reforms that address the excessive mandatory minimum sentences that imprisoned many of the individuals receiving commutation today. Only the passage of legislation can achieve the broader reforms needed to ensure our federal sentencing system operates more fairly and effectively in the service of public safety.
Neil Eggleston is White House Counsel to the President.