President Obama today commuted the sentences of 46 prisoners as part of an ongoing administration review of prison sentences designed to weed out overly harsh punishments and reduce the prison population.
Well, good for him. I am someone who believes strongly in giving people a second chance. Gosh, I give myself a second chance often enough. The guidelines for this review are very strict, seeking to ensure that only those in the best position to make it outside the can are put on the street.
Glancing through the records of the prisoners, it looks like most of them are cocaine dealers, particularly crack cocaine. This of course wades into a race issue, because convicts have received much harsher sentences for crack cocaine offenses than for the more polite forms of the drug.
Many involved in crack are poor and black, meaning they got harsher treatment than wealthier white people who had it passed into their noses by rolled up portraits of Andrew Jackson or Alexander Hamilton. Doesn’t quite seem fair. Those covered under Obama’s actions were nonviolent criminals, most serving more than 20 years and some life sentences. Seems too harsh to me.
Anyone receiving a commuted sentence had to be nonviolent, generally not associated with a gang, in prison for ten years, and on their best behavior while incarcerated.
“These men and women were not hardened criminals,” Obama said. “Their punishments didn’t fit the crimes. And if they were sentenced under today’s laws, nearly all of them would have served their time.”