President Barack Obama commuted sentences of 46 nonviolent federal prisoners on Monday. He will speak in Philadelphia, Pa., on Tuesday about reforming the criminal justice system. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
WASHINGTON, July 13 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 46 nonviolent federal prisoners on Monday as part of his attempt at criminal justice reform.
More than 35,000 inmates, about 16 percent of the federal prison population, applied for early release after the White House announced plans to grant clemency to nonviolent drug offenders in 2014.
"I believe that, at its heart, America is a nation of second chances," Obama said in a video announcing the move. "I believe these folks deserve their second chance."
Obama will speak in Philadelphia, Pa., on Tuesday about reforming the criminal justice system. He has made criminal justice reform part of his agenda for his second term with the aims of reducing overcrowding in federal prisons, reducing operating costs and granting relief to inmates convicted under harsh sentencing guidelines established in the late 1980s during the War on Drugs against crack cocaine and violent crime.
Some convicted nonviolent drug offenders granted clemency were initially sentenced to life imprisonment, Obama said.
"I also believe there's a lot more we can do to restore the sense of fairness at the heart of our justice system and to make sure that our tax dollars are well spent even as we are keeping our streets safe," Obama added. "Together we can make our communities safer, we can spend our taxpayer dollars more wisely and we can make sure that more of our citizens, even those who have made mistakes, have a chance to become productive members of society and contribute to this country that we love."
Obama also sent each of the 46 prisoners receiving commutation a personal letter: