It is not secret that drug crimes are harshly penalized in the United States. Thousands of people are facing overly-extensive prison sentences for non-violent drug offense convictions.
On October 6, President Obama eased the burden of 102 more drug offenders by shortening their prison sentences. He has granted executive commutations to 774 drug offenders, more than any of the past 11 presidents
These clemency efforts have occurred while attempts at sentencing reform, including bills regarding mandatory minimum sentencing are stalled in congress. President Obama's first round of commutations occurred in 2013, and he has vowed to shorten as many drug-related sentences as possible for his remaining term.
"As a country, we have to make sure that those who take responsibility for their mistakes are able to transition back to their communities," Obama wrote this past May. "It's the right thing to do. It's the smart thing to do. And it's something I will keep working to do as long as I hold this office."
For real sentencing reform to occur, however, changes need to be made beyond issuing clemency. President Obama and his administration understand that the minimum guidelines for nonviolent drug offenses must be changed as well.
"While I will continue to review clemency applications, only Congress can bring about the lasting changes we need to federal sentencing," Obama wrote. "That is why I am encouraged by the bipartisan efforts in Congress to reform federal sentencing laws, particularly on overly harsh mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses."
The most recent executive commutations included reducing life-sentences for 34 individuals who are in prison for drug trafficking. Many others have been released from prison after serving years of their sentences.