Continuing his pattern of commuting the sentences of people convicted of felony drug offenses, President Barack Obama shortened the sentences of an additional 111 incarcerated individuals this week (August 30). That brings his total to 673 commutations, which NPR notes is more than the 10 presidents before him combined. Reportedly, 35 of the 111 people whose sentences have been cut short were expecting to spend the rest of their lives behind bars.
News of the commutations hit alongside an announcement that the DOJ will review each of the thousands of clemency petitions from drug-related offenders before Obama leaves office in 2017. ”At our current pace, we are confident that we will be able to review and make a recommendation to the president on every single drug petition we currently have,” Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates told NPR.
Yates’ statement seemingly addresses long-standing concerns that the DOJ would not be able to assess the backlog of petitions filed after the department and the White House announced a clemency initiative for drug offenders two years ago. Former pardon attorney Deborah Leff resigned from the DOJ in January after raising concerns of inadequate resources to handle the volume of petitions.