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President Barack Obama has had his most expansive use yet of his power to free inmates when he pardoned eight people who he said were serving harsh sentences for drug crimes. He also pardoned 13 others for other various crimes.
According to The Associated Press, the president signed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010 to reduce penalties for crack cocaine offenses. This would only affect new cases, not old.
Obama made a point that these criminals were held under the old law, away from their families and communities at taxpayers' expense. Some of these people, according to The LA Times, were sentenced to life in prison for these drug crimes.
Until recently, possession of crack cocaine was punished more harshly than that of powder cocaine. This affected African Americans disproportionately. Many of the prisoners that received commutations today have served 15 years and many were served mandatory minimums despite statements from their judges that said that they were unfair.
In August, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department lawyers would be given new guidelines. These guidelines would restrict the use of mandatory minimums under certain circumstances, like possession of a drug.
Obama hopes that the commuting of these eight Americans today will be an important step forward in restoring fundamental ideals of justice and fairness.