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Friday, July 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Obama Sets Record With|98 New Commutations

WASHINGTON (CN) - President Barack Obama Thursday commuted the sentences of 98 people serving time in federal prisons, the latest in a string of executive actions meant to pare down sentences the president sees as unduly harsh.

This latest round means Obama has now cut the sentences of 872 prisoners, many of whom were serving time for nonviolent drug crimes. It is the second round of commutations this month, following the Oct. 6 reduction of 102 prisoners' sentences.

After that round of commutations the White House said Obama had trimmed the sentences of more prisoners than the past 11 presidents combined.

"Today's clemency grants to another 98 federal inmates who were sentenced under outdated drug laws are part of our ongoing commitment to bring fairness to our criminal justice system," Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said in a statement.

Some of the people whose sentences Obama cut short Thursday were serving life sentences for drug distribution charges, while others were serving lesser time or had other crimes tacked on as well. Though many were in prison solely for drug offenses, some also had gun charges on their records, according to the White House press release announcing the commutations.

James A. McKines was serving the oldest sentence to be commuted, having been sentenced to life in prison in 1989. Obama's action means McKines will be released on Feb. 24, 2017.

Obama's string of commutations comes at a time of momentum for criminal justice reform, specifically shortening sentences for non-violent drug crimes.

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