US President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of eight people he believed were serving unduly harsh sentences in a demonstration of the most expansive use of his executive privilege to free inmates. All eight inmates were sentenced using old federal guidelines that basically treated convictions for crack cocaine offenses harsher than those involving the powder form of the illicit substance. The president also pardoned 13 other inmates for various crimes.
Fair Sentencing Act of 2010
Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010 in order to scale down penalties for crack cocaine offenses for the purpose of minimizing disparity. However, the act addressed only new cases and not old ones. The president said, “If they had been sentenced under the current law, many of them would have already served their time and paid their debt to society, instead, because of a disparity in the law that is now recognized as unjust, they remain in prison, separated from their families and their communities, at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars each year.”