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Obama Clemency Moves Needle on Prison Reform, but More Needed

August 04, 2016
President Obama's clemency grants are an important step in addressing mass incarceration. Now it's time for Congress to act.

This week, President Obama commuted the sentences of 214 individuals serving time in federal prison, the largest single-day grant of commutations in the nation’s history. In a commentary in The Hill, The Sentencing Project’s Executive Director Marc Mauer states that the President’s historic action represents a significant moment in redressing the excessively punitive policies growing out of the war on drugs. The President has now shortened prison terms in more than 500 such cases, more than any previous president.

The next step in addressing incarceration is enacting a legislative solution.

Relying on the President’s power of commutation is made necessary by the failure of Congress to enact sentencing reform legislation that could provide a broader remedy for these problems. Legislation pending in both Houses of Congress could mark a strong beginning in that direction. In the Senate, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (SRCA) would grant federal judges broader discretion in drug cases so as to avoid having to impose mandatory terms on lower level offenders.

Read the full commentary on The Hill.

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