President Barack Obama commuted the time of eight convicted drug felons Thursday, saying their sentences were "unduly harsh" for their crimes and it would decrease federal prison overcrowding.
The Los Angeles Times reported
the eight people had served at least 15 years each before the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act was passed. The act reduced sentence disparities between crack and powder cocaine convictions.
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"In several cases, the sentencing judges expressed frustration that the law at the time did not allow them to issue punishments that more appropriately fit the crime," Obama said about the sentences of the eight people involved in his White House statement.
"Commuting the sentences of these eight Americans is an important step toward restoring fundamental ideals of justice and fairness," Obama added. "But it must not be the last. In the new year, lawmakers should act on the kinds of bipartisan sentencing reform measures already working their way through Congress. Together, we must ensure that our taxpayer dollars are spent wisely, and that our justice system keeps its basic promise of equal treatment for all."
The Washington Post pointed to
at least one political connection. Reynolds Allen Wintersmith Jr., a first cousin of Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a close Obama ally, had his sentence reduced.
Wintersmith had been serving a life sentence for dealing crack cocaine, which he was incarcerated for in 1994. There is no indication that Patrick contacted the Justice Department or the White House about his case, according to the Washington Post.
While Obama said Congress should address mandatory minimum sentencing, he found an unlikely ally in Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, who took to Twitter to express his feelings about broader action.
U.S. Sen. Charles E. Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, declined to comment on the president's actions. Grassley has expressed concern over commuting sentences of nonviolent drug felons.
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