President Obama commuted the sentences of 46 drug offenders yesterday, saying “their punishments didn't fit the crime,” in a move to align some older criminal sentences with current law, the Wall Street Journal reports. The action brings Obama's commutations count to 89, more than the last four presidents combined. Most of the people granted clemency yesterday were serving time for cocaine-related offenses that now carry shorter sentences than when they were convicted. The president noted that if sentenced under today's laws, nearly all of the inmates would have served their time. Their sentences now will expire Nov. 10.
“These men and women were not hardened criminals,” Obama said. “But the overwhelming majority had been sentenced to at least 20 years; 14 of them had been sentenced to life for nonviolent drug offenses.” The 2010 Fair Sentencing Act eliminated some of the disparity between powder cocaine and crack cocaine and scrapped some of the federal mandatory-minimum sentencing rules, but it didn't apply to some inmates who had already been convicted and were serving time. Today, Obama will speak at the NAACP's national convention, where he is expected to lay out ideas for making the justice system fairer and more cost-effective. Thursday, Obama will become the first sitting president to visit a federal prison, traveling to Oklahoma to meet with law-enforcement officials and inmates. “Right now with our overall crime rate and incarceration rate both falling, we're at a moment when some good people in both parties, Republicans and Democrats, and folks all across the country are coming together around ideas to make the system work smarter, make it work better,” Obama said. “And I'm determined to do my part wherever I can.”