By Steve Elliott
Aides expect President Barack Obama, sometime in the coming weeks, to issue orders freeing dozens of federal prisoners locked up for nonviolent drug offenses. With the stroke of his pen, the President will likely commute more sentences at one time than has been done in half a century, since the days of LBJ.
Flexing his clemency power is part of a bigger effort by the President to correct what he sees as the excesses of the "tough on crime" crowd, where politicians threw away the key even for minor criminals, reports Peter Baker at The New York times. With many Democrats and even Republicans now admitting the nation went too far, Obama holds the power to make a difference, especially for many young minority males who are disproportionately affected by biased enforcement of the drug laws.
The total number of sentence commutations by Obama may surpass 80 in the coming weeks, but more than 30,000 federal inmates have come forward after his administration's call for clemency applications. A slow-as-molasses review process has advanced only a few of those, and just a tiny fraction have reached the President's desk for a signature.