With just one day to spare as President of the United States, Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 330 federal inmates on Thursday, Jan. 19. The final act of clemency secured Obama’s legacy as having granted more commutations than any other president in U.S. history, the White House announced.
Obama shortened the sentences of 330 individuals, many of whom were serving unduly long prison sentences for nonviolent drug crimes. Over the past eight years, the outgoing POTUS has wielded his presidential powers liberally in order to give 1,715 inmates a second chance at life. Of those 1,715 individuals, 568 were looking at life behind bars. Obama also has granted 212 presidential pardons.
“He wanted to do it,” Neil Eggleston, White House Counsel to the President, told the AP of Obama’s efforts to reinvigorate clemency. “He wanted the opportunity to look at as many as he could to provide relief. He saw the injustice of the sentences that were imposed in many situations, and he has a strong view that people deserve a second chance.”
Thursday’s slew of commutations was the most Obama, or any other U.S. president, had granted in a single day, topping his previous single-day record of 153 back in December. On Tuesday, Jan. 17, he cut short the sentence of transgender soldier Chelsea Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years in military prison for leaking classified diplomatic documents. Manning is expected to walk free on May 17, The Guardian reported.
Tuesday’s commutations also included reprieves for two inmates who had been sentenced to death. In lieu of being executed, they’ll now serve life in prison, according to the news site.
The White House noted that the vast majority of Obama’s commutations were made possible with assistance from the Clemency Project 2014 and volunteer attorneys from across the nation. In a press release, the White House also explained that commuted individuals would be assisted by the Stanford Justice Advocacy Project in their efforts to re-enter society.
“To the President’s 1,715 commutation recipients and 212 pardon recipients, you have been granted a second chance because the President sees the potential in you,” Eggleston wrote on the White House blog. “After reviewing each of your stories, the President concluded that you have taken substantial steps to remedy your past mistakes and that you are deserving of a second chance.
“You and your stories have been essential to the President’s successful exercise of his clemency authority,” he continued. “Stories of rehabilitation and growth, of families reunited, and lives turned around — these are the stories that demonstrate why our nation is a nation of second chances.”