In what is becoming a monthly routine, President Obama granted commutations Thursday to another 102 federal inmates for mostly drug-related crimes.
White House counsel Neil Eggleston said the latest commutations are for people “who have demonstrated that they are deserving of a second chance at freedom.” He said the “vast majority” were serving lengthy prison terms under outdated laws for drug sentences.
Fifteen of the inmates were convicted of firearms crimes — either using a weapon during a drug transaction, or possessing a gun illegally as a convicted felon.
Eight individuals were convicted of trafficking in more than five kilos of cocaine, and a ninth person, Cesar R. Jara of El Paso, Texas, was convicted in 2006 of trafficking 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana.
With the latest grants, Mr. Obama has commuted 774 sentences, more than the previous 11 presidents combined. With 590 commutations this year, Mr. Obama has now commuted the sentences “of more individuals in one year than in any other single year in our nation’s history,” the White House said.
Mr. Eggleston said these statistics “make clear that the president and his administration have succeeded in efforts to reinvigorate the clemency process.”
“The individuals receiving commutation today are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, and in some cases grandparents,” he said. “Today, they and their loved ones share the joy of knowing that they will soon be reunited.”
One of those who received a commutation, Ricky Minor, 53, of Niceville, Florida, was serving a sentence of life without parole since 2001 for attempting to manufacture methamphetamine. Minor said through the American Civil Liberties Union that he has “become a better man over the last 15 years.”
“I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be the person I am now out in the world,” Minor said. “Thanks to President Obama, I now have the chance to make my family proud of me, earn pride in myself, and be a person in society who is helpful and useful. I have felt my life wasting away inside of this place, and I know I’m capable of more. I haven’t been able to hug my daughter as a free man since she was 7 years old. She’s an adult now, and I am overcome with happiness that I won’t miss any more of her life.”
Mr. Eggleston said the individualized nature of the clemency “highlights the need for bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation.”
“These include reforms that address the excessive mandatory minimum sentences that imprisoned many of the individuals receiving commutation today,” he said. “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.”
Criminal-justice reform legislation seemed to have momentum last year, but is now considered unlikely to be addressed by Congress in the remainder of this election year.