Clemencies Come As Paul Ryan Schedules Vote on Sentencing Reform
Drug Policy Alliance: The President is Acting; Congress Must Step Up Too
Today, President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of more than 200 people incarcerated in federal prison, almost all for drug offenses. This brings his total number of clemencies granted to 562 people. Many of those who received commutations today were victims of the disparity in sentencing between crack and cocaine.
President Obama has been pushed to do more to release those serving time in prison under harsh drug laws.
"The President should be applauded for today’s action, but as his term runs out he must step up the frequency and number of commutations," said Michael Collins, deputy director at DPA's Office of National Affairs. "We also need Congress to Act. Paul Ryan has said that the House will vote on criminal justice reform when they return in September and Mitch McConnell must make the same commitment."
The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, spearheaded by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), includes reductions in mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, an expansion of the federal "safety valve” (which allows judges to use their discretion to sentence people below statutory mandatory minimums), and will expand prison programming and early release, among other things. A similar bill, championed by Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), was introduced in the House. Both bills have strong bipartisan support, and are awaiting floor action.
In the House, Paul Ryan, has promised that there will be a vote in September on criminal justice reform legislation. McConnell has said nothing.
“President Obama has stepped up to the plate once again giving many people a second chance in life," said Anthony 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 notorious Rockefeller Drug Laws for a first-time nonviolent drug offense. “I ask Congress to follow Obama’s lead and create legislation that would give those who have fallen through the cracks of the criminal justice system a second chance to become productive tax paying citizens.”