Drug Policy Alliance: The President is Acting but We Need More Clemencies
Today, President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of more than 102 people incarcerated in federal prison, almost all for drug offenses. This brings his total number of clemencies granted to 774 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 is doing the right thing, but we hope to see many more commutations," said Michael Collins, deputy director at DPA's Office of National Affairs. " We also need Congress to remain engaged on this issue."
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.
In the House, Paul Ryan, has promised that there will be a vote in December on criminal justice reform legislation.
“It’s amazing how many commutations President Obama has granted, to men and women that have paid their dues for the non-violent drug crimes they have committed,” 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. “I hope he continues until every last deserving drug war prisoner is reunited with their love ones.”