In a continued push for criminal justice reform, President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 111 additional inmates, the White House announced Tuesday.
Obama broke his previous single-day record when he pardoned 214 federal inmates earlier this month. According to the White House, a whopping 325 people were granted clemency this August, making it the greatest number of commutations ever granted by a president in a single month.
“We must remember that these are individuals — sons, daughters, parents, and in many cases, grandparents — who have taken steps toward rehabilitation and who have earned their second chance,” White House Counsel Neil Eggleston wrote in a blog post Tuesday. “They are individuals who received unduly harsh sentences under outdated laws for committing largely nonviolent drug crimes.”
The majority of those pardoned Tuesday were serving lengthy sentences for cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine trafficking, USA Today reports. Thirty-five individuals also had their life sentences commuted.
Obama has fiercely defended his use of commutations and continues to work with bi-partisan Congress to make sweeping criminal justice reforms. However, legislation aimed at ending unduly harsh sentencing for drug offenses remain stalled on Capitol Hill.
“As successful as we’ve been in reducing crime in this country, the extraordinary rate of incarceration of nonviolent offenders has created its own set of problems that are devastating,” the president said at a press conference earlier this month. “Entire communities have been ravaged where largely men, but some women, are taken out of those communities. Kids are now growing up without parents. It perpetuates a cycle of poverty and disorder in their lives. It is disproportionately young men of color that are being arrested at higher rates, charged and convicted at higher rates, and imprisoned for longer sentences.”
According to NPR, the Department of Justice is also working to clear a backlog of unreviewed drug cases. Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates asserted that the DOJ would be able to get through the cases and address thousands of clemency requests from drug offenders before Obama leaves office in 2017.
“At our current pace, we are confident that we will be able to review and make a recommendation to the president on every single drug petition we currently have,” Yates said.
The news site reports that since the Justice Department and the White House launched the initiative for drug offenders two years ago, volunteer lawyers and officials were flooded with clemency petitions from sex offenders, violent criminals and white-collar criminals.
Out of the thousands of clemency requests Obama received, he quietly rejected 2,227 of them on Aug. 8, USA Today reports.
“The president’s view is that he would like to grant as many worthy petitions as get to his desk, and I think he’s going to tell me to put worthy petitions on his desk until the last day, and that’s what I intend to do,” Eggleston said.
To date, Obama has commuted 637 federal inmates, more commutations than the last nine presidents combined.