President Obama granted clemency to 12 federal convicts and cut short the prison terms of eight others, Politico reports. The eight commutations involved prisoners sentenced to terms ranging from 16 years to life for drug crimes. White House officials said those decisions were consistent with Obama's drive to shorten the sentences of some drug offenders, particularly those who got longer terms for handling crack cocaine than they would if convicted of crimes involving powdered cocaine.
In 2010, Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, which dramatically reduced the disparity in the severity of how federal law treats crimes involving crack cocaine as opposed to powder. That law was not retroactive, so it did not affect inmates already sentenced under the prior standard. A White House official said some of the prisoners whose sentences Obama commuted yesterday would have gotten shorter terms under the Fair Sentencing Act if it had been in effect at the time they were sentenced. Obama has granted a total of 64 pardons and 21 commutations. That puts him ahead of President George W. Bush on commutations, but behind on pardons.