A total of 14 of the criminals were serving life sentences. Obama said the “punishments didn’t fit the crime,” when signing the order to free the prisoners. Some senior White House officials have reportedly stated that Obama could issue mass clemency orders before the end of his term.
Obama released a video announcing that he was commuting the sentences of 46 convicts. The majority of the prisoners were reportedly sentenced to spend at least 20 years behind bars for their crimes. The White House said to expect President Obama to commute more prison sentences before he leaves the Oval Office.
During his presidency Obama has ordered 90 inmates released from prison – “most” of the convicts were reportedly non-violent offenders. A sentencing commutation by a president or governor leaves the conviction on the record but ends incarceration.
Barack Obama wrote a letter to each of the 46 convicts to let them know he was freeing them from prison. Jerry Bailey, who was ordered to spent 30 years behind bars for his role in a crack cocaine conspiracy, received a commutation letter from the president.
Excerpt from Obama letter to convict Jerry Bailey:
“Now it is up to you to make the most of this opportunity. It will not be easy and you will confront many who doubt people with criminal records can change.”
White House counsel Neil Eggleston said that Obama’s powers to fix the what he deemed problems within the justice system were “limited.” Eggleston also said that “clemency alone will not fix decades of overly punitive sentencing policies.”
Throughout this week President Obama will reportedly devote a significant amount of time and attention to the United States criminal justice system. Obama is expected to release plans for how to “improve the fairness” of the system during a NAACP speech in Philadelphia on Tuesday.
On Thursday Obama will become the first sitting U.S. President to visit a federal prison when travels to El Reno Federal Correctional Institution outside of Oklahoma City and speaks with convicts.
What do you think about Obama commuting 46 sentences?
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