Massachusetts residents may have heard that, in one of his final acts as president, Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 330 federal prisoners who had been convicted of drug crimes. The commutations were handed down on Jan. 19.

Over the course of his presidency, Obama granted commutations to 1,715 federal inmates, which is the most of any president in U.S. history. Of those inmates, 568 had been sentenced to life in prison. According to Obama’s White House counsel, the former president made it a second-term goal to correct what he saw as systemic injustice that led to onerous sentences for thousands of drug offenders. Congress never acted to address the problem.

Obama personally reviewed the case of each prisoner who received a commutation. In order to be eligible for clemency, inmates had to be considered nonviolent offenders, must have already served 10 years of their sentence and had to have a record of good behavior in prison. Inmates who had turned their lives around while in prison were given priority. For example, one inmate who received clemency trained for a commercial driver’s license while in prison, despite having a life sentence. Other released prisoners obtained their GEDs, attended anger management classes and received counseling for drug and alcohol abuse.

Individuals convicted of drug crimes can face serious consequences, including lengthy prison terms and heavy fines. However, a defendant may be able to fight drug charges and protect their future by retaining a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. In some cases, legal counsel may discover evidence that counters the prosecution’s version of events. In other instances, it may be advisable to negotiate for a plea bargain that avoids the most serious charges in exchange for a guilty plea.

Source: FOX News, “In final act as president, Obama commutes 330 drug sentences,” Jan. 19, 2017