New York residents may be interested in learning about one of the things that Barack Obama did on his last full day as president of the United States. On Jan. 19, Obama commuted prison sentences for 330 people who had been convicted of drug crimes. The final round of commutations brought the total number that was granted under Obama to 1,715.
According to White House counsel Neil Eggleston, Obama's commutations were an effort to mitigate what the former president saw as unjust sentences for nonviolent drug crimes. Though Obama was not successful in his bid to enact criminal justice reform, he used his presidential power to shorten sentences for individual inmates. Obama's commutation initiative was open to inmates who had been well behaved in prison for at least 10 years while serving time for nonviolent drug crimes.
Among the commutations that Obama issued over the course of his presidency, 568 of them were for people with life sentences. According to reports, Obama personally reviewed each application for a commutation and took a special interest in the inmates who had reformed themselves in prison. Many of the successful applicants for clemency had obtained their GEDs, dealt with drug addictions and worked while they were in prison.
There were many applications for clemency that did not get reviewed by Obama because they came in after the August deadline. These applicants and other inmates who may have been eligible for a commutation may still have a chance to petition for a reduced sentence. A criminal defense attorney may be able to help an inmate appeal his or her case, prepare for a parole hearing or petition the new presidential administration for a commutation.