It’s been a wild few weeks in the American political landscape. Hillary Clinton has been fighting to try and win over the hearts of frustrated Bernie Sanders backers, while Republican nominee Donald Trump has been…well…Donald Trump. But today, some surprisingly good news has come from the White House, as President Barack Obama granted clemency to 214 prison inmates across the country, far surpassing his previous single-day record.
Out of the 214 inmates that were just granted clemency (67 of which were serving life sentences), almost all were for drug-related offenses, a few of them even just for marijuana-related charges. For instance, Luciano Murga, of Houston, Texas, was serving a 20 year sentence for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute at least 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, and had been locked up for the charge since 2005. A number of others inmates were serving life sentences for a marijuana-related offense on top of other types of drug, weapon, or money laundering charges. But, all the while, the American criminal justice system seems to be having a more difficult time handing out these harsh sentences for seemingly indubitable cases of rape or murder.
Though this may be the largest number of inmates that have been granted clemency by Obama in a single-day thus far, the current head of state often commutes similar prison sentences for about 40 to 50 inmates a month. But, as his final term comes to a close, The White House has reported that Obama will continue commuting certain prison sentences throughout his remaining months in office. To date, Obama has moved to commute a grand total of 562 federal inmates, which is more than the last nine U.S. presidents combined.
As the Obama administration continues to unclog the American prison system of drug-related offenders, we slowly, but steadily make progress against the hard-fought War on Drugs. What direction this current progress will go once President Obama leaves office, however, remains to be seen. According to Neil Eggleston, the White House counsel, only legislation can provide the lasting reform that the criminal justice system needs. Unfortunately, for now, this criminal reform legislation is being held up in Congress, despite receiving some bipartisan support.
“While we continue to work to act on as many clemency applications as possible, only legislation can bring about lasting change to the federal system,” Eggleston said. “It is critical that both the House and the Senate continue to work on a bipartisan basis to get a criminal justice reform bill to the President’s desk.”