In a continuation of President Barack Obama’s effort to lessen penalties for nonviolent offenses, on July 13, he officially commuted the sentences of 46 people serving time for federal drug charges.

“These men and women were not hardened criminals,” Obama said in a video announcing the commutations, “but the overwhelming majority had been sentenced to at least 20 years—14 of them had been sentenced to life—for nonviolent drug offenses. So their punishments didn’t fit the crime, and if they’d been sentenced under today’s laws, all of them would have already served their time.”

The New York Times reports that this brings Obama’s number of commutations to 89—more than the last four presidents altogether, and more than any other president in almost half a century:

The commutations are part of a second-term push by Mr. Obama to use clemency to correct what he sees as the excesses of the past, when politicians eager to be tough on crime threw away the key even for minor criminals. As a result, African-American and Hispanic men were disproportionately affected.

Mr. Obama had already commuted the sentences of 43 prisoners, as part of an initiative begun last year by James M. Cole, the deputy attorney general at the time, who set criteria for who might qualify: generally nonviolent inmates who have served more than 10 years in prison; have behaved well while incarcerated; and who would not have received as lengthy a sentence under today’s revised sentencing rules.

In the video, Obama concluded: “I believe that America, at its heart, is a nation of second chances, and I believe these folks deserve their second chance.”


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