by Mary C. Piemonte
This year, ” lawmakers should act on the kinds of bipartisan sentencing reform measures already working their way through Congress” U. S. President Barack Obama said in a press release on Dec. 19, 2013.
“Together, we must ensure that our taxpayer dollars are spent wisely, and that our justice system keeps its basic promise of equal treatment for all.”
That month, President Obama also granted clemency to twenty-one individuals sentenced for drug-related crimes. He conferred eight commutations, six sentence reductions to life imprisonment and 13 pardons.
One of those President Obama pardoned “was given a life sentence for a first time drug offense,” according to a Sun-Times article that month.
“Three years ago, I signed the bipartisan Fair Sentencing Act, which dramatically narrowed the disparity between penalties for crack and powder cocaine offenses. This law began to right a decades-old injustice, but for thousands of inmates, it came too late. If they had been sentenced under the current law, many of them would have already served their time and paid their debt to society. Instead, because of a disparity in the law that is now recognized as unjust, they remain in prison, separated from their families and their communities, at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars each year,” President Obama stated in the Dec. 19 press release.
He added that he was commuting the prison terms of eight men and women “who were sentenced under an unfair system.”
In those instances, each of them served more than 15 years in prison.
“In several cases, the sentencing judges expressed frustration that the law at the time did not allow them to issue punishments that more appropriately fit the crime,” Obama said in the release. “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.”