On Tuesday, President Obama commuted the sentences of 22 people who were given life sentences for intent to distribute an illegal drug. These commutations more than double the number of commutations he gave in the last six years; he’s taken advantage of his clemency power less than any of his predecessors since Eisenhower.
He signaled this series of commutations as the beginning of a more aggressive approach, and intends to focus his clemency power on those who got long sentences for non-violent drug crimes. While I worry about the administration’s ongoing emphasis on a certain type of prisoner, I appreciate Obama’s resistance to the typical preference for white collar criminals, and I hope that in his final stretch in office he’ll go big.
Check out a representative sample of the letters than accompanied his decision (it’s not entirely to my taste, but he ended on a high note):