President Obama commuted the sentences of 214 federal inmates Wednesday, (August 3) making the action the single largest commutation in the nation’s history. Obama’s latest commuted sentences brings his grand total to 562, most of which has occurred in the past year.
Most of the inmates who will receive an early release are low-level drug offenders who were given lengthy sentences for their first offense. In a post on the White House’s Facebook page, Obama said the purpose of these commuted sentences is to get to the root of America’s incarceration problem.
“The more we understand the human stories behind this problem, the sooner we can start making real changes that keep our streets safe, break the cycle of incarceration in this country, and save taxpayers like you money,” the president said.
One of the 214 inmates who’s sentences have been reduced includes 71 year old Richard L. Reser who was given a 40 year sentence for selling methamphatamine and firearm possession in 1989.
The process to commute a prisoner’s sentence is tedious. White House counsel Neil Eggleston said each application is reviewed by three lawyers from the Department of Justice and the White House before making it to the president’s desk.
“The individual nature of the clemency process underscores both its incredible power to change a person’s life, but also its inherent shortcoming as a tool for broader sentencing reform,” Eggleston said. “While we continue to work to act on as many clemency applications as possible, only legislation can bring about lasting change to the federal system.”