President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 153 people incarcerated in federal prison on Monday, Dec. 19, and handed out 78 pardons. This round of commutations brings the number of prisoners whose sentences have been commuted under President Obama to 1,176.
The commutation of these prison sentences represents what the White House hopes will be just one prong of a broader push to overhaul the criminal justice system, making it fairer while saving the government money. President Obama has been pushed to do more to release those serving time in prison under harsh drug laws that have imprisoned an enormous amount of individuals.
“We need the President to pick up the pace of commutations before he leaves office,” said Michael Collins, Deputy Director of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance. “He is to be applauded for his actions thus far, but we know that the next occupant of the White House is unsympathetic to the cause of ending mass incarceration, and to the plight of those serving unjust sentences in federal prison.”
“There are thousands of individuals in prison who should also be granted their freedom from President Obama,” said Tony Papa, media relations manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, who was granted clemency in New York State in 1997 after serving 12 years under the Rockefeller Drug Laws for a first-time nonviolent drug offense. Papa just released his new book, This Side of Freedom: Life after Clemency, which speaks about the roadblocks he faced after he was released.
“I am praying that Obama grants every single one of them clemency before he leaves office so they can have second chances in their lives,” said Papa.