President Obama continued his push to commute the sentences of drug offenders yesterday, shortening the sentences of 111 prisoners.
The move is part of the White House’s endeavor to reform the criminal-justice system using executive authority in the absence of comprehensive, congressionally approved legislation.
The president launched this effort two years ago, asking convicts who fit the program’s criteria to apply for a commutation. Inevitably the White House was overwhelmed by thousands of applications.
These days presidential mass-clemencies have become a common occurrence — yesterday’s was the second this month — and Obama has already commuted the sentences of 637 offenders, more than his ten predecessors combined.
The president has said that he is especially interested in commuting the sentences of nonviolent drug offenders who are serving long sentences. More than one-third of the 673 convicts whose jail time he’s shortened had been facing life sentences.
White House Counsel Neil Eggleston says that the president will continue to commute sentences until he leaves office. But even if he keeps up this record-breaking pace he will only be able to affect a fraction of Americans incarcerated on drug charges.