president barack obama commuted the sentences of 22 men and women on tuesday. eight of the 22 inmates graced with reprieves would have died behind bars with their life sentences intact. prior to this announcement, obama had only commuted the sentences of 21 people, and pardoned 64, out of thousands of applications received.
the individuals granted clemency reflects the president's broad approach - not exclusively leaning toward resourceful, white-collar criminals. each person was sentenced to jail for intent to distribute an illegal drug, with 14 of those cases involving possession or distribution of cocaine.
white house counsel neil eggleston said, "had they been sentenced under current laws and policies, many of these individuals would have already served their time and paid their debt to society. because many were convicted under an outdated sentencing regime, they served years - in some cases more than a decade - longer than individuals convicted today of the same crime."
obama sent a letter to each of the commutation recipients, and he encouraged all of them to utilize their unexpected freedom as a vehicle to improve the quality of their lives. an administration official says this was the first time obama has sent such letters during his presidency.
obama's letter reads,"i am granting your application because you have demonstrated the potential to turn your life around. now it is up to you to make the most of this opportunity. it will not be easy, and you will confront many who doubt people with criminal records can change. perhaps even you are unsure of how you will adjust to your new circumstances."
"but remember that you have the capacity to make good choices. by doing so, you will affect not only your life, but those close to you. you will also influence, through your example, the possibility that others in your circumstances get their own second chance in the future," obama wrote.
the justice department expanded its criteria for clemency applicants last year, prioritizing defendants who would have likely been given a shorter prison term had they been sentenced today and who have served at least 10 years behind bars, have had good conduct in prison, have no significant ties to criminal enterprises and have no history of violence or significant criminal history.
advocates for greater clemency argued obama should have followed through on the core principles of the 2010 fair sentencing act. the president signed this document, which exponentially reduced the disparity in federal treatment of crimes involving crack cocaine and cocaine powder.
four of the 22 commuted inmates were represented by the clemency project 2014, a group of lawyers offering pro-bono legal assistance to prisoners applying to have their sentences reduced. cynthia roseberry, the group's manager, held their anonymity. roseberry said, "the organization continues to submit petitions at an increasing pace and looks forward to more regular grants by the president."
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.