Days before the end of a ground-breaking year in criminal justice, President Barack Obama pardoned two federal prisoners and commuted the sentences of 95 more. And 40 men and women will no longer serve life sentences for nonviolent offenses — two of whom would have died behind bars for marijuana charges.
On Friday, the White House announced Obama’s decision, which will impact dozens of people who received harsh sentences for drug offenses. The 40 people who expected to spend the rest of their lives in prison will be released in April and December next year. This is the biggest clemency push from the Obama administration since the summer, when the president commuted 46 “unduly harsh” sentences for nonviolent drug crimes. Nearly 30 people granted commutations this time around were flagged by the Clemency Project, which sorts through thousands of prisoner applications every year.
“I am granting your application because you have demonstrated the potential to turn your life around. Now it is up to you to make the most of this opportunity,” he wrote in a letter to the 95. “I believe in your ability to prove the doubters wrong, and change your life for the better.”
Obama has now granted 184 commutations in total — 67 more than the last four presidents combined. He has received 18,698 commutation applications since the start of his presidency, denied 7,378 of them.