For opponents of the War on Drugs—a group that seems to be growing—and those who think the U.S. incarcerates too many people, Tuesday brought some good news and bad news.
The Good News: President Obama has announced that he's issuing commutations to 22 individuals. They all share convictions for drug offenses; eight would have died in prison if not for clemency.
The Bad News: As The Huffington Post notes, that more than doubles the number of commutations and pardons Obama has issued through the first three-quarters of his presidency. As my colleague Matt Ford noted in December, Obama has been stingy with his mercy, even by the standard of recent presidents, who have used their power more infrequently (though George W. Bush issued only 11 commutations over two terms). Ron Fournier also wrote an excellent analysis of Obama's pardons in 2013.
More Good News: What these 22 men and woman share is that they're all locked on offenses that include drug crimes. The administration has made it a policy to try to rationalize sentences for a range of offenses—for example, bringing sentences for crack cocaine in line with those for powder cocaine. White House counsel Neil Eggleston noted that many of the recipients of Tuesday's commutations would have been free already if they were sentenced under today's guidelines.