Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Obama offered 102 federal inmates the chance to leave prison early, wielding his clemency powers Thursday as part of his end-of-term push to spur action on criminal justice reform.

The latest round of commutations brings to 774 the number of sentences Obama has shortened, including 590 this year. The White House said it’s more than the previous 11 presidents put together. Thirty-four of the new recipients had been serving life sentences.

Almost all the prisoners had been convicted of nonviolent crimes related to cocaine, methamphetamine or other drugs, although some were also serving time for firearms violations in connection with drug trafficking, possession or sales. Almost all are men, though they represent a diverse cross-section of the country geographically.

“The vast majority of today’s grants were for individuals serving unduly harsh sentences for drug-related crimes under outdated sentencing laws,” said Neil Eggleston, Obama’s White House counsel. He said Obama will continue considering clemency applications throughout the remaining months of his presidency.

Still, Obama’s order doesn’t set all the prisoners free right away. Many of those receiving commutations won’t see their sentences end until October 2018, long into the next president’s term.

Obama’s bid to lessen the burden on nonviolent offenders reflects his long-held view that decades of onerous sentencing requirements put tens of thousands behind bars for far too long. He has used the aggressive pace of his commutations to increase pressure on Congress to pass a broader fix while using his executive powers to address individual cases where possible.


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