Pubdate: Wed, 31 Aug 2016
Source: Orange County Register, The (CA)
Copyright: 2016 The Associated Press
Author: Kevin Freking, The Associated Press


WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama cut short on Tuesday the 
sentences of 111 federal inmates in another round of commutations for 
those convicted of nonviolent drug offenses.

Obama has long called for phasing out strict sentences for drug 
convictions, arguing they lead to excessive punishment and 
incarceration rates unseen in other developed countries.

White House Counsel Neil Eggleston said the commutations underscored 
the president's commitment to using his clemency authority to give 
deserving individuals a second chance. He said that Obama has granted 
a total of 673 commutations, more than the previous 10 presidents 
combined. More than a third of the recipients were serving life sentences.

"We must remember that these are individuals - sons, daughters, 
parents, and in many cases, grandparents - who have taken steps 
toward rehabilitation and who have earned their second chance," 
Eggleston said. "They are individuals who received unduly harsh 
sentences under outdated laws for committing largely nonviolent drug crimes."

Eggleston noted that Obama also granted commutation to 214 federal 
inmates earlier in the month. With Tuesday's additions, Obama has 
granted the greatest number of commutations for a single month of any 

Eggleston says he expects Obama to continue using his clemency 
authority through the end of his administration. He said the relief 
points to the need for Congress to take up criminal justice reform. 
Such legislation has stalled, undercut by a rash of summer shootings 
involving police and the pressure of election-year politics.

Two goals of the legislation are to reduce overcrowding in the 
nation's prisons and save taxpayer dollars. In 1980, the federal 
prison population was less than 25,000. Today, it is more than 200,000.

But the legislation's supporters have encountered opposition from 
some Republicans who argue that changes could lead to an increase in crime.

Eggleston said Obama considered the individual merits of each 
application to determine that an applicant is ready to make use of 
his or her second chance.

One of those granted relief was Tim Tyler, who at 25 was sentenced to 
life in federal prison for possession with intent to deliver LSD as 
he followed the Grateful Dead. He is now set to be released on Aug. 
30, 2018, conditioned upon enrollment in residential drug treatment. 
Families Against Mandatory Minimums, an advocacy group, said it had 
been working on the Tyler family's behalf.

"We applaud the president for using the clemency power to free people 
who fully expected to die in prison and for shining a light on the 
excesses of federal drug sentencing," said Julie Stewart, the group's 

The inmates' release dates vary. Most are set to be released Dec. 28.

Legal groups supporting the president's actions have formed an 
organization called Clemency Project 2014 that has submitted some 
1,600 clemency petitions to the Justice Department's Office of the 
Pardon Attorney.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom