The Presidential pen scripted clemency for some 20 prisoners earlier last week, eight of which were serving a veritable death sentence for drug-related crimes. As part of a newfound order to show leniency towards non-violent offenders, President Obama signed eight commutations and 12 pardons last Wednesday, aimed at releasing federal inmates currently serving time for a cornucopia of minor indiscretions, including “manufacture of marijuana.”
Four of the prisoners, now set for release in 2015, were all serving life sentences for non-violent drug crimes. In a press release regarding the president’s good faith beginning to reforming the unjust sentencing laws in the United States, Deputy Attorney General James Cole said these individuals’ “punishments did not fit their crimes, and sentencing laws and policies have since been updated to ensure more fairness for low-level offenders. All eight of these individuals meet the criteria I laid out under the President’s direction when I announced the Clemency Initiative in April.”
The initiative, which Cole speaks of, is an effort to show leniency for “non-violent, low-level offenders who have no significant criminal history nor ties to gangs or organized crime.” These were the circumstances surrounding the eight individuals granted release earlier last week, said Cole, adding that each of these people had already served at least 10 years in prison and displayed exceptional behavior during that time.
While the announcement of these presidential pardons indicates a step in the right direction toward the release of a plethora of prisoners currently serving time for non-violent drug offenses, there are still in upwards of tens of thousands of inmates deserving of the same consideration. In fact, recent data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics reveals there are literally hundreds of thousands of inmates currently rotting away in federal prison for drug-related crimes – some simply for possession of a controlled substance.
Without a doubt, the number of people currently serving time for drug offenses is as astronomical as it is ludicrous. And as hopeful as some may be that the president will swoop in and offer a semblance of sympathy for thousands of others under the same wrath, this is simply not likely to happen. The truth is, while there are overtones of good intentions in the realm of U.S. sentencing reform, the federal government has very little interest in dropping the leash that binds the majority of drug offenders in America. Congress’ blatant disregard for the Smarter Sentencing Act this year is enough evidence of that.