Undoing the War on Drugs: President Obama Commutes Another 58 Drug Sentences, Including 18 Lifers
In an effort to begin to undo the harm caused by the war on drugs and reform the criminal justice system, President Obama has commuted the sentences of 58 inmates who had received mandatory sentences, mostly for nonviolent drug offenses involving cocaine, crack and methamphetamine.
As The Washington Post reported, these latest grants of clemency bring the president’s total number of commutations to 306, including 110 people who were serving life sentences. Of the current 58 inmates given relief by Obama, 18 had received life without parole. Many of the individuals will be released on Sept. 2, though some will be released over the next two years, according to The Guardian.
The latest wave of prisoners granted commutations have been “granted a second chance to lead productive and law-abiding lives,” said Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates, according to NBC News. “Our clemency work is continuing as part of our broader efforts to effectuate criminal justice reform and ensure fairness and proportionality in sentencing,” Yates added.
Among those whose sentences have been commuted, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, is Jasmine Allen from Bunnell, Florida. Allen was sentenced to 235 months’ imprisonment (amended to 188 months earlier this year) and five years’ supervised release in 2008 for conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base; manage or control a residence for the purpose of unlawfully manufacturing, storing and distributing a controlled substance; and distribution of five grams or more of cocaine base. She is set for release in September.
In 2008, Abbas Rauf Kareem of Daytona Beach, Florida, received a sentence of 240 months’ imprisonment and 10 years’ supervised release for possession with intent to distribute cocaine base. Kareem’s prison sentence was commuted to expire in May 2018.
Timothy Antjuan Augustus of Hampton, Virginia, was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine base and cocaine in 2007, and was sentenced to 210 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release.
Eddie Brown of Washington, D.C., was given a life sentence in 1990 for unlawful possession with the intent to distribute 50 grams of cocaine base. He will be released in 2017 based on the commutation of his prison sentence.
Aundra Coats of Cleveland, Ohio, was sentenced in 2005 to 250 months in prison, followed by 10 years’ supervised release for distribution of cocaine base. She is scheduled for release in September.
In 1996, Roberto Antonio Davila of San Antonio, Texas, received a life sentence for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana, and distribution of marijuana and aiding and abetting said offense. He will be a free man in September.
Jamal Hanson of Temple Hills, Maryland, was given a 262-month sentence for distribution of 50 grams or more of cocaine base in Washington, D.C., and eight months for possession of contraband in prison. Hanson will be released in September.
Fulton Leroy Washington of Compton, California, was convicted of conspiracy to manufacture, possession and intent to manufacture PCP, and was sentenced to life in 1997. Washington’s release date is later this year.
Larry Simmons of Savannah, Georgia, was given a life sentence in 2003 for crack distribution, and will be released in September as a result of the president’s commutation.
Lavelle Span of Milwaukee received a 372-month sentence for conspiracy to distribute cocaine base and distribution of cocaine base, and his sentence was commuted to expire in September.
In 2000, Michelle Miles of Brooklyn, N.Y., was given a 360-month sentence for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine base; distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine base.
These and other individual cases bring home the draconian nature of drug sentencing in this nation, and remind us that there are names, faces and families behind these policies, whose lives have been destroyed. Despite the progress the president has made in beginning to undo mass incarceration, we are reminded of the countless others, principally people of color and specifically Black, who languish in the prisons and do not belong there.
“I am pleased by today’s news, but I know that for every prisoner whose sentence the president commuted today, there are a hundred more who are equally worthy,” Mary Price, general counsel of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, told The Associated Press.
Similar commutations of sentences are expected to increase during the remainder of Obama’s time in office.