Why Obama Just Sent 8 Drug Inmates Home Early

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President Obama shortened the sentences of eight non-violent drug offenders Wednesday, as part of an initiative to grant relief to those defendants who would have gotten shorter prison terms if they were sentenced today.

Among those who will be released in the spring are Barbara Scrivner, who was sentenced to 27 years in prison for a minor conspiracy and possession role in assisting her then-husband sell methamphetamine. She was addicted the drug at the time, according to Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM). She will have served 19 years upon her release, at a cost of $551,000, according to a FAMM estimate. During that time she overcame her addiction and earned a college degree. Several others on the list were given life sentences.

But the eight individuals granted commutations this spring comprise not just a tiny fraction of those who might be eligible for commutation under Obama’s program. They also reflect an even smaller fraction of those whose federal prison terms are the result of draconian sentencing policies. Pardons and commutations are typically intended to grant mercy in the most extraordinary of circumstances, not to reform a sentencing scheme that leaders is now widely viewed as draconian. Families Against Mandatory Minimums President Julie Stewart referred to those granted commutations as the “lucky few,” in a federal system that still dictates low-level drug offenders spend years in prison under mandatory minimum statutes. Bipartisan sentencing reform bills were pending in both the House and the Senate this year.

“These are the kinds of people we continue…

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