“We are not done yet.”
So says U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in a remark linked with President Obama’s recent commutations of lengthy prison terms for a high number of defendants locked behind bars in federal penitentiaries.
Concededly, while “high number” is a relative delineation, it certainly seems to hit the mark when referenced in the context of presidential commutations. Notably, an order issued by President Obama last week to commute the sentences of 214 inmates in facilities across the country reportedly relates to “the largest batch of commutations on a single day in more than a century.”
Indeed, it is eminently clear that the current presidential administration is singularly proactive when it comes to its criticism of many sentencing outcomes and its tandem demand that more equity be introduced into the criminal justice system.
A recent ABC News article notes the across-the-aisle support that has emerged for federal sentencing reforms in recent years, with a wide swath of critics pointing out the often draconian sentences meted out to criminal defendants, especially many first-time nonviolent drug offenders. That article stresses that, notwithstanding the bipartisan clarion call for reform, momentum has stalled a bit recently owing to “the intensely political climate of the presidential election year.”
Obama seems to care little about that. Yates voices an administration expectation that “many more men and women will be given a second chance” to leave prison early before the president leaves office.
Recent history would seem to readily support that view. The president has commuted many hundreds of sentences during his tenure. The next few months could add greatly to the total.