By Justin Sink
President Obama has asked the Justice Department to solicit more applications for commutations and pardons, his top lawyer revealed Tuesday.
Kathryn Ruemmler, the outgoing White House Counsel, told students at New York University’s law school that the president has asked the Justice Department to improve the clemency process. Her speech came the same day Obama commuted the sentence of a man whose drug trafficking sentence was extended 3.5 years because of a typographical error.
"The president believes that one important purpose can be to help correct the effects of outdated and overly harsh sentences that Congress and the American people have since recognized are no longer in the best interests of justice," Ruemmler said, according to USA Today.
"This effort also reflects the reality that our overburdened federal prison population includes many low-level, nonviolent offenders without significant criminal histories."
Obama has commuted the sentences of only 10 individuals so far through his presidency.
Last December, Obama freed eight federal prisoners who were convicted on federal crack cocaine charges, saying they were punished under old, unfair sentencing guidelines. Obama has signed a law reducing exaggerated penalties for crack versus powder cocaine use and urged additional legislation that further reduce drug sentencing disparities.
But critics argue the president could be more aggressive in ending the sentences of prisoners who appear to have been handed unjust sentences.
On Tuesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said clemency played an “important role” as “a failsafe in our judicial system.”