Some Florida federal inmates might be among the 1,715 offered clemency by Barack Obama during his eight years in office. On Jan. 19, Obama commuted the sentences of 330 people serving time for drug crimes. During his presidency, Obama tried to reform sentencing laws that he felt were unjust but was largely unsuccessful due to pushback from Congress. These commutations were part of his overall effort to attack what he saw as systemic problems in sentencing.
People were able to apply until the end of August to have their sentences commuted. They had to have behaved well while in prison, and with a few exceptions, served at least 10 years of their sentences. Among those whose sentences were commuted was a man who was sentenced to 22 years in jail for his involvement in a drug deal. Although he had obtained marijuana and his brother had obtained cocaine for the sale, he received a longer sentence than his brother due to a lengthy criminal record. The man has already been in prison for 12 years and will be released in 2019, although he must enter a residential drug treatment program.
Many of the people chosen for clemency had shown that they were turning their lives around. For example, one man serving a life sentence had received a commercial driver’s license.
Whether a person is a first-time offender or has a history of drug offenses, penalties for drug crimes can be severe. Even if someone receives a lighter sentence, a drug offense on a person’s record may affect his or her ability to receive financial aid for education or to work in certain professions. Individuals who are charged with drug possession, distributing drugs or other drug-related crimes may want to discuss the situation with their attornies to determine whether they would like to plead innocent, take a plea bargain or pursue some other strategy.