Freedom is coming to 22 federal prisoners after President Obama granted them clemency yesterday.
The prisoners, who are all incarcerated on drug-related charges, are scheduled to be released in July. Eight of the prisoners were serving life sentences, and others had been imprisoned since 1992.
“Had they been sentenced under current laws and policies, many of these individuals would have already served their time and paid their debt to society,” the White House said in a statement. “Because many were convicted under an outdated sentencing regime, they served years—in some cases more than a decade—longer than individuals convicted today of the same crime.”
Obama’s pardons come less than a year after the Department of Justice announced a new initiative encouraging prisoners and nonviolent, low-level drug offenders to apply for clemency. In total, 6,561 prisoners applied last year, two of whom were just pardoned. One woman who was granted clemency was serving a 13-year sentence on charges of cocaine possession. She, like many other prisoners, had become involved with a drug-dealing boyfriend or girlfriend.
Before yesterday, Obama had only pardoned 21 other people during his six years in office. However, last month during a speech at Benedict College, he suggested that he would be taking advantage of what he called the president’s “extraordinary” clemency powers during his final two years in office.
“People deserve a second chance after having made a mistake in their lives that led to a conviction under our laws,” he wrote in his letter to the prisoners. “It is up to you to make the most of this opportunity. It will not be easy, and you will confront many who doubt people will criminal records can change. Perhaps even you are unsure of how you will adjust to your new circumstances. But remember that you have the capacity to make good choices.”