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President Issues Most Commutations in a Single Day

President Obama granted clemency for 214 inmates on Wednesday, according to an announcement on the White House website. The move marks the most commutations issued in a single day in more than a century, and comes just a few months before the 2016 presidential election.

Sixty seven individuals who were commuted were serving life sentences — almost half for nonviolent drug crimes. All of the individuals receiving commutation were incarcerated under outdated and unduly harsh sentencing laws, the announcement states.

In 2014, the President set out to make significant changes to America’s approach to clemency. To highlight instances of over-sentencing in prisons, The President directed the Department of Justice (DOJ) to prioritize petitions for commutations from individuals convicted of non-violent drug offenses who were serving longer sentences than they would be given today if convicted of the same crime, the release states.

To date, President Obama has granted 562 commutations. That’s more commutations than the previous nine presidents combined. Of those, 197 individuals were serving life sentences.

“The individual nature of the clemency process underscores both its incredible power to change a person’s life, but also its inherent shortcoming as a tool for broader sentencing reform,” the release states. “That is why action from Congress is so important. While we continue to work to act on as many clemency applications as possible, only legislation can bring about lasting change to the federal system.”