Speaking at a New York State Bar Association event in New York, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole explained the unprecedented step of curtailing penalties in low-level drug cases, and of encouraging defense lawyers to recommend inmates who the president could release from prison, the New York Times reported.
Recent tougher sentencing laws resulted in disparities in sentencing, with offenses for crack cocaine possession receiving more severe penalties than for powder cocaine.
The laws led to an 800 percent increase in the number of prisoners in the United States, the newspaper noted.
"There are more low-level non-violent drug offenders who remain in prison, and who would likely have received a substantially lower sentence if convicted of precisely the same offenses today. This is not fair, and harms our criminal justice system," Cole said.