The 95 federal prisoners incarcerated for drug offenses who either had their sentences commuted or pardoned Friday by U.S. President Barack Obama represent “another important step forward in upholding our fundamental ideals of justice and fairness,” the president said at his annual year-end press conference at the White House. The move by Obama, who added that he wants to work with Congress on criminal justice reform, comes amid a national effort to reduce the high number of people crowded in U.S. prisons.
Some 22 drug offenders got the same treatment from Obama in March, and 46 were granted commutations in July. Obama has been pressing forward with sweeping criminal justice reforms in an attempt to relieve the federal prisons of some nonviolent drug offenders given harsh sentences during the war on drugs.
“I am granting your application because you have demonstrated the potential to turn your life around,” Obama wrote in letters to each of the prisoners, according to the New York Times. “Now it is up to you to make the most of this opportunity.”
The prisoners Obama has given clemency to don’t get to see a life outside of prison immediately, however. They first go to lower security prisons before heading to halfway houses for a transition period prior to being released from federal custody.
More attention this year has been paid to trying to reform the criminal justice system in the United States. The Federal Bureau of Prisons, which oversees all federal prisoners, said two months ago it would release about 6,000 inmates over the course of a couple of days, CNN reported.
Obama: I still want to work with Congress to reform our criminal justice system.
— David Smith (@SmithInAmerica) December 18, 2015
Obama himself became the first sitting president to visit a federal prison when he met with inmates in July. Congress has also tried to come together across party lines to solve overcrowding in U.S. prisons, with lawmakers trying to change sentencing laws.
“There has been sincere, serious negotiations and efforts by Democrats and Republicans to create a criminal justice system that is more fair, more even-handed…and smarter about how we reduce crime,” Obama said Friday at a press conference.