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Obama Commutes 22 Drug Sentences, Including Eight Lifers

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #880)
Politics & Advocacy

President Obama today commuted the sentences of 22 convicted federal drug offenders. With that action, he has doubled the number of commutations he has issued since taking office in January 2009.

President Obama commuted 22 drug sentences today. (
The prisoners who got their sentences cut were all convicted of possession of drugs with intent to distribute. Fourteen of the cases involved cocaine.

Many of those were convicted under harsh crack cocaine sentencing laws adopted in the 1980s and at least partially rolled back during the Obama administration. The sentences were typically 20 years or longer, with most of the prisoners having already served more than a decade behind bars.

In eight cases, the defendants were serving life sentences for drug crimes. Among the life sentences, six were for crack cocaine offenses (one included heroin, too), one was for a meth offense, and one was for a Kentucky man convicted of growing more than a thousand marijuana plants.

"Had they been sentenced under current laws and policies, many of these individuals would have already served their time and paid their debt to society," White House counsel Neil Eggleston said in a statement announcing the commutations. "Because many were convicted under an outdated sentencing regime, they served years -- in some cases more than a decade -- longer than individuals convicted today of the same crime."

In a first, the president also sent letters to each of the prisoners whose sentences he commuted urging them to take full advantage of any post-release opportunities.

"I wanted to personally inform you that I have granted your application for commutation," President Obama told Terry Barnes at the Federal Correctional Institute in Yazoo City, Mississippi. Barnes was only halfway through a 20 year sentence for crack cocaine distribution.

The same letter went out to the other 21 commutees as well.

The prisoners will see their sentences end on July 28. For a complete list, click on the link at the top of this article.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Shoreline1 (not verified)

If it were 22,000, I would applaud.

Thu, 04/02/2015 - 11:51am Permalink
LE (not verified)

Please will someone help me. I live in Mississippi. My son was arrested and plead guilty to selling to a CI methamphetamine ( according to lab amount was basically residue). The girl had called him for weeks, she finally succeeded by saying she just needed enough to be "sick".  He gave in......and did so. He was 24 years old, working, engaged to be married. He had one prior drug arrest at 17 for simple possession of cocaine. There is much more to this story but.....most would be shocked by what happened to him, our family by law enforcement. Due to the prior arrest and his refusal to become a "CI" himself, he was sentenced to 49 years. Statements were made by people he had not even seen for years. In Rankin County there is no trial. Attorneys will tell you up front how corrupt it is, how deputies are not held to wrongful acts or lying on reports. You are told "it is just the way it has always been.......the attorney we paid for actually told us if my son was accused of manslaughter, armed robbery, etc. that my son would be "better off". I do not have the money for an Appeal. Here it is rare to find an attorney that will take on the judges that they rub shoulders with daily. Please if anybody can give me advice on how to help my son......e mail me at [email protected].

Thu, 04/02/2015 - 9:51pm Permalink
RevBacon (not verified)

The basic tenet of this site seems to be that drug laws are bad, and that the so-called "war on drugs" is really stupid. OK, you get no argument from me. I say legalize all drugs, let Walgreens sell them, and source them, tax the sales, and keep the money out of the hands of the gangs. At least I hope that's what you mean, rather than simply keeping the drugs where they are, and the same evil supply chain, but then you just don't punish anyone. 

Anyone, including the author of this article, that may confuse victimless crimes with victimless convicts is kidding themselves. I have never met a "street" drug dealer, even at the lowest levels, that wasn't prepared to do violence in order to ply his trade. The dead criminal that had half a pound of pot this week was the scourge of the earth, and his death was a great thing. Had the world been as I fantasized above, he would have still found a way to be in some trade where the instruments of that trade were guns, violence, and a lack of buy-in to the social contract.

While it hasn't been publicized, the convicts whose sentences Barry commuted this week are almost certainly violent felons. They will offend again, and soon; I won't be surprised if the offense is murder. Ironically, one set of denialists allows them to plea bargain to non-violent offenses in order to avoid certain habitual criminal sanctions (e.g. Calif's 3 strikes law); and the other set screams that there are non-violent offenders in jail, and gosh it's a shame.

Fri, 04/10/2015 - 9:20pm Permalink
sicntired (not verified)

How anyone who says they're for legalising all drugs and selling them at Walgreens can jump from there to all felons are animals and all street dealers would cut your throat for a nickel astounds me.I guess nothing can explain the continuation of the drug war better than a thought pattern like that?I have been in and around the drug scene for 46 years.I know the worst animals on earth and others who would rather cut off their own arm than do violence to others.I have been heavily addicted to heroin for decades and the only harm I ever did was in self defence.I would also like to point out that of all the addicts and dealers I have crossed paths with.The only ones who even considered assaulting a cop were people who would sooner kill you than look at you.I can guarantee that the President of the USA did NOT release any such persons in a list of 22.Obama could release every person convicted of cannabis possession tomorrow without increasing the risk to anyone.I mean people in prison for cannabis possession alone.Drug users and even drug abusers come in every personality type there is.It's not the drugs that cause the violence and the death.It's the lifestyle that's dictated by the prohibition of some drugs and the need that some drugs create that leads there.People all over the world are addicted to every drug imaginable and most will never do anything worse than possess and use their drug of choice.Americans use more drugs,legally than most people on earth.Even legal drugs are a serious problem now because of the insanity our drug laws have created.Does anyone really imagine people the world over,living in the most horrible conditions,sorting through garbage all day long are doing it straight?Why do you think so many homeless are using drugs?Are they there because of a drug problem or do they have a drug problem because that's the only way they can cope?I heard a high ranking Pakistani security officer talking about how important it was that the world understood how vital the opium trade was to the Afghan economy.That after NATO and America left that the Afghan people would need their opium production more than ever.He gets it.It's as natural as any plant and is neither good nor evil.If people could buy it on the internet from the source,it would be easily available at a cost that anyone could afford.Heroin is addictive but benign to the body otherwise.Unlike a lot of other drugs,it won't kill you if you know what you're getting.People should be allowed to do to themselves whatever they decide they want to do,save harm to others.The harm I have seen has always come from the lifestyle forced on the addicts by prohibition.That was before crack cocaine.Now ,in Vancouver,we have people who are allowed to do what they want as long as they stay in the DTES.What crack cocaine does to them is obviously punishment far worse than anything you could dream up in your worst nightmare.It's still their choice.As someone who was around when they followed you around and busted you every week and you spent half your life in prison.I can say without hesitation that I would rather it be this way.It's simply allowing people to take responsibility for their own choices.They make all choices equally easy.It's up to the individual to choose.

Sat, 04/11/2015 - 12:08am Permalink

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