Obama Commutes The Sentences Of 61 Drug Criminals

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Alex Pfeiffer White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 61 inmates Wednesday, all of whom were drug offenders.

Obama has now commuted the sentences of 248 criminals — more than the last six presidents combined. Commutation does not wipe away a conviction as a pardon does, but instead shortens an inmate’s sentence.

Most of those receiving a commutation Tuesday will be released July 28, The Associated Press reports. All of those who received clemency Tuesday were in prison for drug related crimes and most are nonviolent offenders, though some were in prison also for gun crimes.

The presidential power to grant clemency “embodies the basic belief in our democracy that people deserve a second chance after having made a mistake in their lives that led to a conviction under our laws,” Obama wrote in a letter to the prisoners who received commutations.

The president has been especially active in his final year in office fighting for criminal justice reform, an issue with broad bipartisan support.

Neil Eggleston, White House counsel, wrote Tuesday that Obama plans on granting more clemency to convicts before he leaves office.

“Throughout the remainder of his time in office, the president is committed to continuing to issue more grants of clemency as well as to strengthening rehabilitation programs,” Eggleston said.