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Obama Commutes Prison Sentences For 95 Nonviolent Offenders

The White House says it is commuting the federal prison sentences of 95 men and women who committed nonviolent offenses.

President Obama has now commuted 184 sentences total. That's more than the previous five presidents combined, the White House says in a blog post.

The administration says Friday's commutations are tied to the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010:

"Most of the commutations the President has granted have been to non-violent offenders sentenced under those unjust — and now outdated — drug crime sentencing rules. If these individuals had been convicted for the exact same crime under today's laws, nearly all of them would have already finished serving their time."

Five years ago, Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, which "reduced the sentencing disparity between offenses for crack and powder cocaine from 100:1 to 18:1," according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

"African Americans served virtually as much time in prison for non-violent drug offenses as whites did for violent offenses," said the ACLU, because the majority of crack cocaine offenders were African-Americans.

The White House says Obama sent a letter to all 95 people whose sentences were commuted.

In one letter the administration posted, to a prisoner named Donald Allen incarcerated in Florida, Obama says the presidential power to grant pardons and clemency "embodies the basic belief in our democracy that people deserve a second chance after having made a mistake in their lives that led to a conviction under our laws."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.