President Obama commuted sentences this week as part of his overall support of starting to limit extreme penalties in national drug cases. In choosing to “free” these federal inmates from more serious charges — Obama commuted a total of eight convicts’ sentences, all of whom were found guilty of crack cocaine offenses — our Commander in Chief has received some public backing amid some public criticism as well. The NY Times tells the latest on these presidential pardons this Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013, noting that had the U.S. leader not stepped in, these inmates would have been kept behind bars for additional decades or even life imprisonment.
Obama commutes sentences for federal crack cocaine offenses? This noteworthy act marks the very first time that an official instance of retroactive criminal relief was officially given to a convicted band of inmates, most of whom would have probably been given shorter prison terms had they been sentenced under more modern drug laws, sentencing regulations, and conviction policies. Under the U.S. President’s decree, a majority of these inmates will are set to be released in less than four months.
This is in fact a significant decision that is beginning to turn the pendulum of how the American government perceives and punishes certain charges, especially drug offenses, here in our country and in the future.
As ordered by the federal commutations of these sentences, President Obama is taking a major step in the public efforts of his governmental administration to stop increasing taxpayer spending on jail-related and criminal-related expenses, as well as work to remedy what is widely conceived today as an unfair and at times corrupt justice system.
“In a recent statement, Obama said that each of the eight men and women had been sentenced under what is now recognized as an “unfair system,” including a 100-to-1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses that was significantly reduced by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.”
“If they had been sentenced under the current law, many of them would have already served their time and paid their debt to society,” the U.S. President added. “Instead, because of a disparity in the law that is now recognized as unjust, they remain in prison, separated from their families and their communities, at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars each year.”
Regarding the Obama commutes sentences headline, the “freeing” of these convicted inmates early is turning former national tides of non-negotiable, high-penalty laws as part of a rampant crack cocaine epidemic towards more moderate views. Such law enforcement policies were said to have raised a massive 800% increase in the total number of arrested jail inmates here in the U.S., as well as notably more serious charges regarding crack cocaine offenses set against poorer black communities versus powder cocaine (being more common among wealthier white users), who suffered lesser penalties.
An $11.50 minimum wage bill that was recently passed by city council officials (and set to go into effect by early 2016) in Washington, D.C., has also made national news headlines this week.