Comment Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee, On The President’s Decision to Commute the Sentences of 46 Individuals

[President Obama on Monday commuted the sentences of 46 individuals serving time for drug offenses.  Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has long opposed mandatory minimums and advocated for comprehensive criminal justice reform.  He is the coauthor of the Justice Safety Valve Act, a bipartisan bill that allows judges to impose a sentence below the mandatory minimum sentence, and is a cosponsor of the bipartisan Smarter Sentencing Act to lower nonviolent drug mandatory sentences. As chairman of the Judiciary Committee last Congress, Leahy led hearings on the nation’s exploding prison population and the challenges facing the Department of Justice as a result. Earlier this year, Leahy was honored by the Constitution Project in part for his work on criminal justice issues.] 


“The President has the power under the Constitution to commute sentences, and I applaud him for choosing to use his authority.  For decades our criminal justice system has been plagued by racial disparities and inequities, locking away too many people for too long.  The cost is also breaking the bank.  An increasing share of our criminal justice budget has been going to warehousing nonviolent prisoners, instead of preventing and prosecuting serious crime.  The President is right to confront this reality, and to restore a measure of justice to 46 individuals and their families who have seen firsthand how our justice system can struggle to live up to its name.  I hope that this is one of many more such announcements to come, as this is still a small number of potentially qualified applicants and there must be a sustained commitment to addressing this injustice.”


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