President Obama granted commutations today to 330 people, most of whom were serving long sentences for drug crimes.
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Obama granted commutation to a total of 1,715 people during his time in office, including 568 people who were sentenced to life in prison.
“I am granting your application because you have demonstrated the potential to turn your life around,” Obama wrote in a letter to these individuals. “Now 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 with criminal records can change.”
Obama added, “But remember that you have the capacity to make good decisions.“
Tackling issues within the criminal justice system was a priority for the Obama administration. Obama lamented that fully achieving criminal justice reform was one goal he was not able to accomplish during his time in office. Still, Obama was committed to using the power of the presidency to grant clemency.
Earlier this week, Obama granted clemency to Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence officer who shared thousands of confidential documents with WikiLeaks. Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2013 but will be released in May. The decision drew criticism from politicians from both sides of the aisle, but Obama told reporters during his final press conference on Wednesday that he believed justice had been served and he was able to send a clear message to the national security community about leaking classified material.
"Chelsea Manning has served a tough prison sentence," said Obama. "So the notion that the average person who was thinking about disclosing vital classified information would think that it goes unpunished — I don't think would get that impression from the sentence that Chelsea Manning has served."
Obama wrote in the Harvard Law Review that he is the first president in decades to leave the presidency with fewer people in federal prison now than when he took office.
“There is so much work to be done. Yet I remain hopeful that together, we are moving in the right direction,” wrote Obama. “Crime remains near historic lows, prison populations are decreasing, taxpayer dollars are being better spent, and more Americans are landing on their feet and taking advantage of the second chances they’ve earned.”
Obama granted more commutations than the past 13 presidents combined.