Some people who are sitting in North Carolina prisons right now are there because they were convicted of non-violent drug offenses. In recent years, President Obama has been making an effort to reduce the prison sentences of many non-violent drug offenders. The Obama administration has so far commuted prison sentences for over 1,000 people who are being affected by what the White House called ‘outdated and unduly harsh sentencing laws.”
President Obama has used his clemency power to commute more prison sentences than any other chief executive in the past several decades. By offering a commutation, Obama is shortening an inmate’s prison sentence without officially forgiving the inmate for the crime. Outright pardons have been issued much less frequently than commutations during Obama’s time in office.
Obama’s initiative to commute sentences for non-violent drug offenders was announced in 2014. Since then, letters asking the president for commutations have flooded the White House, and the U.S. Justice Department has been working to review individual cases in order to make recommendations to the president. Some advocates for criminal justice reform have been critical of the president for taking too long to grant commutations. As Obama’s presidential term draws to a close, many people are eager to have commutations granted for fear that the initiative will not continue under Trump.
A person who was handed a lengthy sentence for non-violent drug charges may have to act fast to get the attention of the Justice Department before Obama leaves office. A criminal defense attorney may be able to advocate for an individual’s case and help to request a commutation of the sentence.