On March 31 President Barack Obama carried out the commutation of 22 federal inmates’ sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. He had done the same with eight federal inmates in December 2014 who had committed similar drug offenses.
Neil Eggleston, who is part of the White House counsel told the media that if these individuals had been sentenced under current laws, the time served would have already passed, and they would have been deemed as individuals who had already repaid their debt to society. He stated,
“Because many were convicted under an outdated sentencing regime, they served years — in some cases more than a decade — longer than individuals convicted today of the same crime.”
Over the past year several bold public statements have been made by Attorney General Eric Holder against the current mass incarceration environment in the United States. Including a number of promises from the administration to make enhancements to the commutation procedures.
Despite the positive rhetoric, President Obama has actually used his power less times than almost any other United States President in history to grant clemency.
There have been several advocacy groups, many made up of family members of incarcerated individuals, who have pressured President Obama significantly to do something about all of the people who are serving mandatory extended minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.
The media relations manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, Anthony Papa, stated, “I am elated that President Obama continues to use his executive powers to grant freedom to those drug offenders who have served draconian sentences.”
Papa went on to say that he was hopeful that this action will convey a message to State Governors as well, so that they can also use their power to grant clemency to individuals who have already served overly long sentences and deserve to get their lives and families back.
Anthony Papa served for 12 years under the famously harsh Rockefeller Drug Laws of New York and was granted clemency in 1997.
If the United States is going to do anything about the issue of mass incarceration, there is a great deal of legislation that Congress must process.
The Smarter Sentencing Act would be at the forefront of this legislation, and it would give judges increased discretion during the sentencing process, decrease mandatory minimum sentences, and render retroactive the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.