president barack obama commuted the sentences of 61 federal inmates on wednesday, all of whom were held on drug charges. the progressive actions demonstrate the administrations' ongoing commitment to grant clemency to people with unforgiving convictions during the so-called war on drugs era.
the announcement came one day after the commander-in-chief vehemently criticized the previous american policy of engaging in a "war on drugs." during a national drug abuse and heroin summit on wednesday, obama said, "for too long we've viewed drug addiction through the lens of criminal justice...drug abuse is a health problem, not a criminal one."
over 33% of the people granted early release yesterday would have otherwise served life sentences. none of them, however, were serving life sentences for marijuana-only crimes. the commutation makes those sentences expire on march 30, 2017, and would remit the unpaid balance of the fine.
each of the 61 individuals were primarily charged with distribution of drugs. they were sentenced when the government prided itself on ruthlessly prosecuting folks with drug charges - an oppressive tactic which disproportionately warehoused men of african descent.
"i am gratified that president obama continues to use his powers to release individuals who deserve a second chance at life," said anthony papa, the drug policy alliance's media relations manager. papa was granted clemency in new york after serving 12 years for a first-time nonviolent drug offense. he was sentenced to 300 months imprisonment with five years supervised release.
"with so many people waking up each day with the hope that they too will find mercy and redemption, i hope that today's grants portend even more grants over the remaining ten months left in president obama's term," said cynthia w. roseberry, project manager for clemency project. pro bono legal project clemency project 2014 helped process clemency applications for 25 of the prisoners.
obama has reduced more sentences than all (!) of the last six presidents - combined. these were the first clemency grants he issued since december, when he granted the largest set of commutations in his presidency: 95 federal prisoners, and two pardons. obama has now commuted the sentences of almost 250 people.
norman l. reimer, executive director of the national association of criminal defense lawyers, and a partner in the project to process inmate applications said, "the 61 grants today add to an increasingly impressive total, but we urge the president and his team to vastly increase the pace, and continue granting commutations on a regular basis throughout the remainder of his term."
deputy attorney general sally yates said, "through cooperative bipartisan efforts with congress, the u.s. sentencing commission and reform advocacy groups, we hope to soon realize systemic change in the length of prison sentences for these low-level drug offenders and to provide better tools for a safe and successful reentry into the community."
- 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.