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President Obama on Thursday commuted the sentences of 102 inmates, the White House announced.
Obama has commuted the sentences of 744 individuals, more than the past 11 presidents combined, according to the White House. Thursday’s announcement brings the total number granted this year alone to 590, more than any single year in U.S. history.
“These statistics make clear that the president and his administration have succeeded in efforts to reinvigorate the clemency process,” White House counsel Neil Eggleston wrote in a blog post. “Beyond the statistics, though, are stories of individuals who have overcome the longest of odds to earn this second chance.”
The latest round of commutations is part of the Obama administration’s effort to free prisoners serving lengthy sentences doled out during the government’s war on drugs.
With just three months left in office, Obama is accelerating the use of his clemency power. Obama in August handed out commutations to 325 inmates — including 214 on Aug. 3, the largest single-day total since 1900.
That alone nearly doubled the number of commutations granted during Obama’s presidency.
Obama first launched a clemency initiative in 2014 to review sentences of non-violent drug offenders who would receive shorter prison terms under today’s guidelines.
It’s part of the president’s broader push to reform the criminal justice system.
Facing pressure from reform advocates to pick up the pace of commutations, the administration has tweaked its strategy to accommodate more inmates.
He has shortened some inmates’ sentences without immediately releasing them, leaving them years left to serve. That has allowed Obama to grant commutations to prisoners who have committed more serious offenses.
For example, 28 of the 35 inmates serving life in prison had their sentences reduced to between 15 and 30 years. Only seven will be released in the next two years.
A larger number of inmates convicted of gun charges have received clemency from Obama, according to a USA Today review.
Thirty inmates in the latest batch have firearm-related convictions.
The commutations are increasingly seen as a last-ditch effort for Obama to reduce prison sentences he sees as unjust.
But the prospects appear slim that Congress will pass a broader criminal-justice reform bill before the president leaves office.
Eggleston urged Congress to pass a sentencing reform bill in the lame-duck session after the November elections.
“Commutations can be a powerful tool to rectify specific cases, but the individualized nature of this relief highlights the need for bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation,” he wrote.
“Only the passage of legislation can achieve the broader reforms needed to ensure our federal sentencing system operates more fairly and effectively in the service of public safety.”
Updated at 4:36 p.m.