President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 42 federal prisoners Friday, nearly half of whom were serving life sentences.
Most of the 42 prisoners were serving long sentences for non-violent drug-related offenses. Twenty were serving life sentences. The president has often targeted such individuals for clemency, arguing so-called “mandatory minimum” laws, which limit judicial discretion by requiring specific sentences for certain offensives, are often disproportionate to the seriousness of the crime.
“I believe that, at its heart, America is a nation of second chances. And I believe these folks deserve their second chance,” Obama said in a White House video.
Obama has commuted almost 350 sentences, considerably more than his recent predecessors. (RELATED: Drug Runner Who Got Obama Commutation Tells Different Story Than Court Documents)
The commutations were announced in a post on WhiteHouse.gov by White House Counsel Neil Eggleston. “He remains committed to using his clemency power throughout the remainder of the Administration to give more deserving individuals that same second chance.”
Eggleston also called on Congress to pass criminal justice reform legislation which addresses mandatory minimums. “There remain thousands of men and woman in federal prisons serving sentences longer than necessary,” he wrote. “That is one reason it is critical that both the House and the Senate continue to cooperate on a bipartisan basis to get a criminal justice reform bill to the President’s desk.”
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