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President Obama Gives Second Chance To Prisoners Whose Sentences Would Be 10 Years Shorter Today

President Obama Tuesday commuted the sentences of 22 federal inmates mostly locked up on drug charges.

White House lawyer Neil Eggleston announced the President’s surprise move on the White House blog, explaining that Obama wanted to address unfair sentencing guidelines.

In some cases, the former prisoners served 10 years longer than they would have if they were sentenced today. Obama wrote letters to each of the 22 prisoners, telling them that their clemency was a second chance.

“I am granting your application, because you have demonstrated the potential to turn your life around,” Obama wrote to federal prisoner Terry Andre Barnes. “Now it is up to you to make the most of this opportunity. It will not be easy, and you will confront many who doubt people with criminal records can change. Perhaps even you are unsure of how you will adjust to your new circumstances.”

“But remember that you have the capacity to make good choices,” Obama wrote. “By doing so, you will affect not only your own life, but those close to you. You will also influence, through your example, the possibility that others in your circumstances get their own second chance in the future.”

In order to be eligible for presidential clemency, a prisoner must be serving a federal sentence; serving a sentence that, if handed down today, would be shorter, have a nonviolent history and no gang ties and have served at least 10 years, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Obama’s decision comes on the heels of launching a clemency initiative to urge prisoners who feel they were unfairly sentenced to ask for leniency.

Prisoner’s rights advocates praised the President’s decision.
“For far too long, this nation went down the road of locking up non-violent offenders and throwing away the keys, without any regard for value of these people and the damage that mass incarceration does to families, communities and to our entire society,” Clemency Project 2014 Project Manager Cynthia W. Roseberry said.



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