WASHINGTON -- President Obama on Thursday commuted the prison terms of eight people sentenced to life in prison or other long sentences for drug crimes.
The commutations are part of the administration’s campaign to roll back inequities in connection with mandatory minimum sentencing, particularly for possession or sale of crack cocaine. Until recently, possession of crack was punished more severely than other forms of cocaine, disproportionately impacting African Americans.
“Commuting the sentences of these eight Americans is an important step toward restoring fundamental ideals of justice and fairness. But it must not be the last,” Obama said in a statement. “In the new year, lawmakers should act on the kinds of bipartisan sentencing reform measures already working their way through Congress.”
All of those to receive the commutations have been in prison for more than 15 years, and many were sentenced under mandatory minimums despite statements from their judges that the sentence was unfair, Obama said.
Thursday’s action is in line with steps the administration has championed since taking office, including Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr.'s announcement of changes the Justice Department is pursuing on the issue.
In August, Holder announced that Justice Department lawyers would be given new guidelines restricting the use of mandatory minimums under some circumstances.