It what had been expected for months, President Barack Obama has reduced the prison sentences of 46 non-violent offenders last Tuesday. That will include 14 prisoners who were serving life sentences. Obama commented that “their punishments didn’t fit the crime.”
In a video released to the media from the White House, Obama further said, “These men and women were not hardened criminals.” He reiterated that the overwhelming majority of the 46 had been sentenced to at least 20 years. It is expected to be Obama’s initial move to reduce a burgeoning prison population.
The reasoning behind the sentence reductions is a broader effort by the administration to make the U.S. criminal justice system fairer. In the president’s six-plus years in office, he has issued nearly 90 commutations. The majority of those cases were for non-violent offenders sentenced for drug crimes under outdated sentencing guidelines. Obama wrote a personal letter to each of the 46 individuals to notify them of their commutation.
The White House also released a letter written by Obama to Jerry Bailey, sentenced to 30 years in prison for conspiracy to violate laws against crack-cocaine. The president praised Bailey for showing the potential to turn his life around and good behavior while behind bars.
Part of the letter said, “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.” Bailey is currently serving his time at a federal correctional facility in Georgia.
Obama has devoted much of this week to the criminal justice system. On Thursday, he will be the first president to actually visit a federal prison. He’ll make that stop at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution outside of Oklahoma City. During the visit he will meet with correctional officials as well as actual inmates.
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