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History made with over 770 commutations granted to nonviolent offenders

In a recent post, our blog discussed how President Obama made history back in August by granting 325 commutations to federal inmates convicted of nonviolent drug crimes, a truly remarkable figure representing the single largest number of sentence reductions ever handed down in a single month by a U.S. president.

In recent developments, it appears as if the Obama Administration's claim that the president would continue these commutations right up to the now-imminent conclusion of his second term were indeed true.

Last Thursday, the White House announced that President Obama had commuted the sentences of another 102 federal inmates convicted of federal drug crimes.

To put things in perspective, President Obama has now commuted the sentences of 774 federal inmates, more than the combined total granted by his 11 predecessors in the Oval Office. Furthermore, the 590 commutations granted in 2016 now stand as the most ever granted in "any other single year in our nation's history."

For those unfamiliar with a commutation, it is essentially a shortening of a prison sentence to time-served or fewer years behind bars, with the other consequences of the conviction remaining in place.

In other words, a prisoner granted a "time-served" commutation would essentially be eligible for almost immediate release, while a prisoner granted a "term" commutation would see their sentence reduced by several years, from life without parole to parole eligible, or from death to life in prison.   

Interestingly, a recent analysis of the 673 commutations granted by the president through August reveal that nearly all of those granted prior to the first of the month were for time-served, but that as many as 39 percent of the commutations granted thereafter were for term. This suggests, say experts, that federal inmates convicted of more serious drug crimes -- manufacturing, trafficking, etc. -- are now seeing their sentences commuted.

It will, of course, be fascinating to see whether President Obama is finished with his clemency initiative or if there will be more rounds in the weeks ahead. Stay tuned for developments.

If you have been arrested or are under investigation by state or federal law enforcement for possible drug-related activities, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible.

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Darryl A. Goldberg
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