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Barack Obama pardons 330 drug sentences before leaving office

On Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, the last day as the President of the United States, Barack Obama commutes sentences of 330 federal inmates convicted of drug offences. The recent move brings his total number of clemencies to 1,715, the most for any U.S. president till date.

Commutations have been a major part of Obama’s efforts in reforming the criminal justice system. During his presidency, Obama granted 568 clemencies to inmates serving life sentences. In 2016, Obama had pardoned sentences of many federal prisoners. He granted 98 commutations on October 27, 2016, 72 commutations on November 4, 2016, and on December 19, 2016, Obama commuted the sentences of another 231 federal prisoners on a single day.

The Obama administration received more than 16,000 applications in 2016 and before granting commutation, Obama personally looked into the case of every inmate who qualified for it. He has also granted pardon to the convicted leaker Chelsea Manning arguing that she has shown remorse and already served a long sentence.

Obama’s views on criminal justice laws

In an interview, Obama’s White House counsel, Neil Eggleston, said that Obama wanted to provide relief to as many as he could. Obama strongly believes that people deserved a second chance and sometimes the sentences can be unfair. Eggleston also said that Obama has been motivated to grant clemency to inmates who had changed themselves for the better while staying in the prison.

The Clemency Project was launched in January 2014 and since then provided free legal assistance to prisoners who had served at least 10 years of their sentence and met other criteria. Granting pardon has been a top priority for the Obama administration. Obama had called for removing strict regulations for drug offenses stating that sentences for such felonies lead to excessive punishment and incarceration rates, not found in other developed countries.

Clemency Project: Criteria and goals

With a view of reforming the United States criminal justice system, the Obama administration in collaboration with the country’s bar associations recruited thousands of legal professionals for the Clemency Project. The project was started post Deputy Attorney General James Cole asking the legal body to provide free assistance to federal prisoners who, if sentenced recently, were likely to be granted a shorter sentence. Under the project, the lawyers had to screen the pardon applications of drug offenders before submitting those applications to the Office of Pardon Attorney in the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The criteria set by the DOJ required the prisoner to be convicted of a nonviolent and low-level offence; to have demonstrated good conduct while in prison; to have no history of violence during his or her prison term; to have no significant criminal history; and to have served at least 10 years of his or her sentence. Once a prisoner qualified for all these, he or she was granted a lawyer who then reviewed the prisoner’s documents. The prisoner was then assigned a lawyer to file a clemency petition.

Road to recovery

Drugs not only make the lives of offenders miserable but also of those who get addicted to it. It affects one’s mental health to the extent that it can prove fatal. If you know someone addicted to any drug and needs help, they should seek treatment from a certified treatment facility. At the 24/7 Recovery Helpline, we can help you find the best treatment centers for drug addiction in the U.S. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-441-4405 or chat online with our representatives to know about the top drug rehab treatment centers in the U.S.

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