president obama & ex-prisoners meet for lunch

President Obama meets with ex-federal prisoners for lunch in Washington, D.C., March 30, 2016.

*On Wednesday President Obama did something that been done before. He commuted the sentences of 214 more federal inmates. That was the largest single-day grant of commutations in history of the USA.

In each of these cases, the President examines the application on its individual merits. As a result, the relief afforded is tailored specifically to each applicant’s case. While some commutation recipients will begin to process out of federal custody immediately, others will serve more time.

For some, the President believes that the applicant’s successful re-entry will be aided with additional drug treatment, and the President has conditioned those commutations on an applicant’s seeking that treatment. For others, the President has commuted their sentences to a significantly reduced term so they are consistent with present-day sentencing policies. While these term reductions will require applicants to serve additional time, it will also allow applicants to continue their rehabilitation by completing educational and self-improvement programming and to participate in drug or other counseling services. Underlying all the President’s commutation decisions is the belief that these deserving individuals should be given the tools to succeed in their second chance.

If you do the math, with his total of 562 total commutations made during his presidency, Obama has now used his constitutional clemency power (most of which were made this year) to shorten the sentences of more federal inmates than any president since Calvin Coolidge.

With the early release of 214 prisoners, mostly low-level drug offenders, Obama’s plan to correct what he views as unreasonably long mandatory minimum sentences, is being emphasized. Some of the cases are decades old, including that of 71-year-old Richard L. Reser of Sedgwick, Kansas. He was given a 40-year sentence for dealing methamphetamine and firearm possession in 1989. He’ll be released Dec. 1.

“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 in a Facebook post.

commutations chart

Clemency power for the president usually takes one of two forms: Pardons, which give offenders a full legal forgiveness for their crimes, and commutations, which shorten prison sentences but often leave other conditions intact. Many of those granted commutations Wednesday will remain under court supervision even after release.

Thirty-five recipients won’t be released for another two years. Neil Eggleston, White House Counsel to the President, said every case is different, and that some applicants need more time for rehabilitation.

“Underlying all the president’s commutation decisions is the belief that these deserving individuals should be given the tools to succeed in their second chance,” Eggleston said.

Read/learn MORE at Whitehouse.gov.