Obama shortened prison sentences for hundreds of drug offenders in his final days in office

It seems everyone is talking this week about WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning, whose 35-year prison sentence was commuted on January 17 by President Obama.

But Manning, who stole secret documents while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq and leaked them in 2010, wasn’t the only person to receive good news from the White House.

Obama granted 209 commutations, or shortened prison sentences, on Tuesday, with a majority of those going to Americans serving long sentences for non-violent drug offenses, The International Business Times reports. The president also issued 64 pardons this week.

“We commend President Obama for making history by continuing to grant hundreds of clemencies,” Jessica Jackson Sloan, the national director of #cut50, a bipartisan initiative to reduce the incarcerated population by half, said in a statement.

“For far too long, efforts to fight crime have missed their mark, breaking up families and harming the human potential in our most vulnerable communities. Thanks to President Obama’s clemency initiative, more than one thousand people who were given overly harsh sentences during the War on Drugs now have a second chance at freedom.”

The president has commuted sentences for 1,385 federal prisoners, a bigger number than the 12 previous presidents combined, according to Reuters.

One such commutation was granted to Pablo Gonzalez, Jr., a Texas man who was convicted on charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana as well as conspiracy to commit money laundering. Gonzalez was sentenced to over 11 years in prison, and will now walk free on May 17 of this year.

Eduardo Moreno was sentenced to life in prison on similar charges. He will also be released this May, and the remaining balances on his $25,000 fine will be remitted.

The drug policy reform activist community was¬†relatively quiet on Tuesday. There were no trending hashtags on Twitter or think pieces being passed around. Some activists released statements suggesting that the president’s latest push for criminal justice reform falls short.

“We are grateful for the president’s actions, but this new Congress must now step up to the plate on sentencing reform,” Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. “There are still thousands of people in prison serving unfair sentences for drug offenses, and we need to fix that.”

There are currently 2.2 million Americans behind bars. According to the White House website, approximately half of all federal prisoners are serving sentences for drug-related crimes.

The Associated Press reported earlier this week that Obama would grant more commutations on January 19, the day before President-Elect Donald Trump takes office. Officials said those would “focus on drug offenders and would not likely include any other famous names.”

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