A bold move from the president dubbed "one of the least merciful" in US history: President Obama commuted the sentences of 22 drug offenders yesterday, more than doubling the number of commutations he has issued during his presidency, reports USA Today, which notes that it was the biggest single-day commutation since Bill Clinton commuted 40 sentences and pardoned 150 other offenders on his final day in office. All but two of the sentences commuted were for cocaine offenses, and Politico reports that all but one of the sentences were shortened to end in July, allowing a few months for transition in halfway houses. The White House has released a list of the offenders and their sentences.
On the White House blog, Counsel to the President Neil Eggleston says many of the drug offenders were "convicted under an outdated sentencing regime" and have already served longer than people convicted of the same crime today would. The White House also released a letter from Obama to Terry Andre Barnes, who was sentenced in 2005 to 20 years and six months for distributing crack cocaine. "You have demonstrated the potential to turn your life around," Obama writes, telling Barnes it may be tough, but he has the capacity to make good choices, and his example will influence "the possibility that others in similar circumstances get their own second chance in the future." "I believe in your ability to prove the doubters wrong," he writes. "So good luck, and Godspeed."