Obama to Free 42 More Inmates Serving Time on Drug Charges

He's commuted more sentences than the past 7 presidents combined
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 4, 2016 3:43 PM CDT
Obama to Free 42 More Inmates Serving Time on Drug Charges
President Obama arrives on Air Force One at Miami International Airport on Friday.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

On Friday, President Obama announced 42 non-violent drug offenders—20 of them currently serving life sentences—will be released from prison in the coming year, the Huffington Post reports. According to a White House press release, they were put away "under outdated and unduly harsh sentencing laws" and "have more than repaid their debt to society." This brings the total number of sentences commuted by Obama to 348—more than the past seven president combined, the Hill reports. But supporters of drug-sentencing reform—including Republican billionaire Charles Koch—say it's still not enough. There are about 9,000 applications for clemency still pending, and 1,000 to 2,000 inmates are believed to meet the Justice Department's criteria to have their sentences commuted.

Most of the 42 inmates will be released in October. The rest will go free in June. One of them, Douglas Dunkins, says getting out will "be like a breath of a new life." Dunkins was serving life under mandatory minimum sentencing for crack that even his judge said was "unfair." Another being released, Teresa Griffin, was pregnant when she was given life in prison after an abusive boyfriend used her as a drug mule. In total, 130 of the inmates freed by Obama were serving life sentences. The President doesn't plan on stopping in the coming months, and more commuted sentences are expected. At the same time, the White House is urging Congress to change mandatory minimum sentencing. (Read more clemency stories.)

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