On his last full day as president of the United States, Barack Obama issued 330 sentence commutations for federal inmates convicted of drug offenses—the most issued on any single day in American history.
His final order of clemency brings Obama’s total commutations to 1,715 – the most of any U.S president, according to the White House.
Barack Obama has admitted to his own personal struggles with illegal drugs in the past. During an MTV special interview he stated that “I pretty much tried whatever was out there,” and in his 1995 memoir, Dreams from my Father, he mentioned smoking “reefer” in “the dorm room of some brother” and talked about “getting high.” Obama wrote “I had learned not to care. I blew a few smoke rings, remembering those years. Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it.”
It has long been known that Obama has been soft on the war on drugs, just last September he commuted the sentences of 111 federal inmates, including 35 serving life sentences. Those prisoners were all convicted drug offenders as well.
The outgoing president made issues of criminal justice reform, including sentencing reform for nonviolent drug offenders, as a major part of his second term agenda. This final batch of commutations brings his bid to correct what he’s called a systematic injustice to a climactic close.
Speaking of the 330 drug related commutations, Neil Eggeston, Obama’s White House counsel, said “He wanted to do it. He wanted the opportunity to look at as many as he could to provide relief, he saw the injustice of the sentences that were imposed in many situations, and he has a strong view that people deserve as second chance.”
For Obama, this was the last time he planned to exercise his presidential powers in any significant way. In less than 20 hours Barack Obama will hand over the keys to the White House to Donald Trump.