President Obama on Monday commuted the sentences of 46 men and women convicted of nonviolent drug crimes, saying the cases exemplify why Congress must make permanent changes to the criminal justice system.
In a video posted on the White House website, the president Obama said the 46 Americans — imprisoned for crimes such as conspiracy to distribute cocaine — don’t deserve to remain behind bars.
Reggae Star Buju Banton was arrested, charged and convicted for conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Buju Banton was never violent or committed any violent act even though a gun was involved in the entrapment ordeal. Hopefully president Obama will consider these facts and set Buju Banton free also.
“These men and women were not hardened criminals, but the overwhelming majority had been sentences to at least 20 years. Fourteen of them had been sentenced to life for nonviolent drug offenses. So, their punishments didn’t fit the crime,” President Obama said. “I believe that at its heart, America is a nation of second chances. And I believe these folks deserve their second chance.”
President Obama added that, because of changes to sentencing guidelines, many of those offenders would have been given far less time in prison if they were tried and convicted today.
The commutations come one day before President Obama travels to Philadelphia to speak at the annual NAACP convention. Criminal justice reform is expected to be a focal point of his address.
President Obama will also discuss drug policy during a trip to a federal prison in El Reno, Oklahoma, later this week. It will be the first time a sitting president has visited a federal corrections facility.
President Obama also said the country is at a place where criminal justice reform truly can be achieved.
“Right now, with our overall crime rate and incarceration rate both falling, we’re at a moment when good people in both parties, Republicans and Democrats, and folks all across the country are coming together around ideas to make the system work smarter, make it work better, and I’m determined to do my part wherever I can,” he said.