As Time Runs Out, Obama Grants 111 New Clemency Petitions

Obama is still behind on his promise to grant nonviolent drug offenders clemency, but he's picking up the pace.
Posted at 9:01 PM, Aug 30, 2016

President Obama just can't stop commuting prison sentences, which makes sense because he's running out of time.

The White House announced Tuesday a new batch of 111 federal prisoners, including 35 people serving life sentences, will now be serving shorter prison terms courtesy of the POTUS.

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That brings the total number of sentences commuted by Obama to 673, which the administration points out is more than the last 10 presidents combined. Most of those commutations were for nonviolent drug offenders who would've received more lenient prison terms if sentenced today.

Problem is, those 673 commutations represent a little under half of the 1,500 prisoners legal advocates estimate should be eligible for shorter sentences. And the president has just over 140 days left to sort through tens of thousands of remaining applicants.

The White House has started to pick up the pace — almost half of Obama's total commutations happened this month. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates told NPR, "We are confident that we will be able to review and make a recommendation to the president on every single drug petition we currently have."

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The White House also took the opportunity to remind Congress that meaningful criminal justice reform can only happen through new legislation. Obama's mass executive clemency orders are just a stopgap until then.