WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 22 individuals on Tuesday, more than doubling the number of commutations he has issued in the six-plus years he's been in office.
The men and women granted the reprieves had been imprisoned under an "outdated sentencing regime," the administration concluded. Eight of the 22 inmates had been sentenced to life imprisonment and would have died behind bars.
Leading up to Tuesday's announcement, the president has tried to revamp his administration's approach to clemency, telling The Huffington Post in a recent interview that he felt recipients should more broadly reflect the entire applicant pool and not lean toward well-connected white-collar criminals. Those granted clemency on Tuesday were all sentenced to jail for intent to distribute an illegal drug, with 14 of those cases involving possession or distribution of cocaine.
"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 shared in advance with The Huffington Post. "Because many were convicted under an outdated sentencing regime, they served years -- in some cases more than a decade -- longer than individuals convicted today of the same crime."
The president sent a letter to each of the commutation recipients encouraging them to take advantage of their post-prison opportunity. An administration official said that this was the first time Obama has sent such letters during his presidency.