For the third time this year, President Obama has used his executive power to commute the sentences of drug offenders serving time in federal prison.
The White House announced Friday that Mr. Obama had commuted the sentences of 95 people and pardoned two others. Nearly all of the offenders were behind bars for drug-related offenses — mostly for charges related to possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine.
Of the 95 commutations, at least 74 involved possession or distribution of either crack or cocaine. Another nine of the commutations involved only methamphetamine, five involved only marijuana, and five others did not explicitly mention the type of drug involved.
Two commutations were for crimes not related to drugs. One case involved an armed bank robbery, and the other was possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Friday’s move represents the largest commutation of Mr. Obama’s time in office and further eclipses the number of commutations made by other recent administrations. In March, he commuted the sentences of 22 drug offenders, and in July he commuted another 46 sentences — bringing his total number of commutations during his time in office to 184.
Families Against Mandatory Minimums cheered the move but noted that many other long sentences should be reviewed.
“American presidents have had the power to show mercy since the founding of our republic. President Obama is the first president in decades to use it as the founders intended,” said FAMM President Julie Stewart. “For that reason, we commend him for showing more mercy than his predecessors.”
With Friday’s move, Mr. Obama’s 184 commutations is the most by any president since Lyndon B. Johnson, who commuted 226 sentences, according to Justice Department statistics. Indeed, that 184 figure is more than half as many as the 117 commutations that Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush granted in their combined 32 years in office.
Over the past year, the president increasingly has focused on criminal justice reform, especially as it relates to low-level, nonviolent drug offenders spending years, or even decades, in prison. The broad concept of criminal justice reform has strong bipartisan support in Congress and across the country.
The president also pardoned two people: Jon Dylan Girard, of Centerville, Ohio, who was convicted of counterfeiting in 2002, and Melody Eileen Homa, of New Kent, Virginia, who was convicted of aiding and abetting bank fraud in 1991.
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