Wednesday’s commutations by President Obama, which brings his total number to 562, represent the most granted by a president in a single day since at least 1900, according to the White House blog.
This is especially good news for 67 prisoners who were serving life sentences—almost all for nonviolent drug crimes, noted the blog.
Michael Collins, deputy director at Drug Policy Alliance, told HIGH TIMES that Obama should be applauded for the commutations, but time is running out in his term.
“He needs to step up the frequency and quantity of commutations,” Collins said. “Every two to three months is not enough.”
Collins explained there are thousands of prisoners serving harsh sentences that they would not be subjected to if convicted today.
“At least 5,000 people are still languishing in prisons having been sentenced for crimes that don’t even exist anymore,” he said.
Collins explained that the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which includes reductions in mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses, was introduced in the House and has strong bipartisan support.
“Now we need Congress to follow Obama’s lead,” Collins told HIGH TIMES. “[Republican House speaker] Paul Ryan has said the House will vote on criminal justice reform when they return in September, and we’re hoping Mitch McConnell will make the same commitment.”
The White House blog stressed the importance of Congress and criminal justice reform.
“The individual nature of the clemency process underscores both its incredible power to change a person’s life, but also its inherent shortcoming as a tool for broader sentencing reform. That is why action from Congress is so important.”
As of today, President Obama has only 168 days left in office, so we are collectively and respectfully asking for more commutations and clemency for the thousands of harshly sentenced and non-violent drug prisoners.
It is the right and just thing to do.