November 22, 2016 / 7:10 PM / 4 years ago

Obama grants 79 prison sentence commutations

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama reduced the sentences of another 79 federal prisoners by exercising his commutation power, the White House said on Tuesday, bringing to more than 1,000 the number of prisoners whose sentences were commuted under Obama.

The prisoners are mainly non-violent drug offenders, a group the White House had hoped to reach through criminal justice reform bills that have stalled in Congress.

Obama, with the help of pro-bono lawyers and the Justice Department, announced in 2014 that he would use clemency and commutation powers to right the wrong of sentences he saw as overly harsh and unfit of the crime.

“While we are continuing to push for criminal justice reform, and that important piece of business remains unfinished, I’m pleased to say the president has not just met but exceeded what he set out to do in 2014 by reinvigorating the clemency project,” said White House Counsel Neil Eggleston.

Eggleston said the vast majority of the more than 1,000 prisoners have served far more time than the sentence they would have received if they had committed the same crime today.

Eggleston said he anticipates additional grants before Obama leaves office in January.

The Obama administration was flooded by petitions for clemency after the 2014 announcement.

There were about 6,000 pending petitions for drug offenders as of Aug. 31, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, and the Justice Department made a commitment to review all of those petitions by the end of the administration.

President-elect Donald Trump has not said how he will treat pending petitions for clemency when he takes office.

Reporting by Julia Edwards Ainsley; Editing by David Gregorio

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