President Obama commuted the sentences of eight people imprisoned more than 15 years on crack-cocaine charges, a move in line with his administration’s attempts to ease some of the harsher drug-sentencing decisions of the past two decades, the Wall Street Journal reports. The president also pardoned 13 others who already served sentences for various federal crimes.
The eight inmates getting commutations were sentenced before Obama signed a law in 2010 ending a 100-to-1 disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences. “If they had been sentenced under the current law, many of them would have already served their time and paid their debt to society,” Obama said. Former U.S. Pardon Attorney Margaret Love said the president’s decision was important for some 4,000 other federal prisoners sentenced under similar drug laws that Congress later decided were overly punitive. Some prisoner advocates have urged the creation of a clemency commission that could examine a larger number of petitions.