Last summer Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department would no longer seek mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenders.
According to CNN, he said America was “coldly efficient in jailing criminals” and that people go to prison “for far too long, and for no truly good law enforcement reason.” The effort started by Holder was expanded Thursday, this time from President Obama himself.
The President said in a statement, “Today I am commuting the prison terms of eight men and women who were sentenced under an unfair system.”
He also suggests that incarcerating these people — all of whom served at least 15 years — would save “millions of taxpayer dollars each year.” The annual cost of keeping an inmate in a federal prison averages about $26,000 per year and the most recent budget appropriations request called for an increase in budget of plus-five percent for drug offenses.
President Obama commuted the sentences of fewer prisoners in his first term than any president since John Adams. According to The Washington Times, President Obama “has commuted sentences or granted pardons for 37 people” this year.
Many of the people pardoned have received prominent media attention, including Clarence Aaron, called by The Guardian “the most prominent case among them.”
In 1993, the “one-time college student” introduced two drug dealers who went into business with each other. He was given $1500 for it, but never sold drugs himself. He was given a life sentence for a number of “intent to distribute” charges. Under current law, he would have already been released.
A review ordered by the U.S. Sentencing Commission that began last summer could lead to a path to freedom for other prisoners with small-time offenses that racked up big-time charges, but without the intervention of the President of the United States.