President Barack Obama will soon begin to issue executive orders which will release dozens of nonviolent drug offenders who are currently serving time in federal prison, according to the White House. Over 30,000 federal inmates applied for clemency when the Justice Department put out a call in 2014. President Obama is expected to use his clemency power to commute at least 80 of their sentences, and that would be more than any president has commuted in nearly 5 decades.
This is all part of a much bigger effort to go beyond the tough drug laws that policymakers have put into place over the last 30 years. And these carry excessive mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders and have been proven to disproportionately impact black men. In fact, criminal justice reform is one issue that both Democrats and Republicans agree on completely.
In July of 2014, the United States Sentencing Commission revised guidelines for drug offenders, which meant that 40,000+ inmates became eligible for early release. The first inmates will be released under the new guidelines later this year in November. On average, they will see about 2 years cut from their sentences and will have served approximately 9 years.
“It’s a time when conservatives and liberals and libertarians and lots of different people on the political spectrum” have “come together in order to focus attention on excessive sentences, the costs and the like, and the need to correct some of those excesses,” Neil Eggleston, the White House counsel who recommends clemency petitions to Obama, told The New York Times. “So I think the president sees the commutations as a piece of that entire process.”