Yesterday, President Obama commuted the sentences of 46 individuals serving time for drug offenses, doubling the number of clemencies he has granted as part of his administration’s efforts to reform the criminal justice system.
“Decades after the tough-on-crime era of the 1980s and 1990s, the Obama administration is hoping to combine the president’s commutation powers with Justice Department reforms and support from sympathetic Republicans in Congress to change sentencing policies that have had a disproportionate effect on African Americans and Latinos,” reports the Los Angeles Times
Advocacy groups welcomed the announcement, but said the 46 acts of mercy were ‘a drop in the bucket’ compared with what they hoped Obama would do before he left office.
Jeremy Haile of The Sentencing Project in Washington said there were 7,000 to 8,000 prisoners still doing time for convictions involving crack cocaine who would not be in jail today under the 2010 reform of crack cocaine laws.
Prior to the passage of the federal Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, individuals convicted of possessing crack were penalized 100 times more harshly than those convicted of possessing powder cocaine. Because of trends in drug use, this penalty contributed to dramatic disparities in the incarceration of African Americans when compared to their white counterparts.
Read more in the Los Angeles Times.