*In spite of the haters of his many straightforward actions, President Barack Obama continues to do what he feels is necessary before his final term is up. This includes his decision to commute the sentences of eight inmates incarcerated for crimes that, although drug-related, did not involve violence. In a statement, the president claims the inmates were sentenced under an “unfair system.”
“If they had been sentenced under the current law, many of them would have already served their time and paid their debt to society,” Obama explained in the statement.
In 2011, Congress passed a law that effectively reduced the federal government’s mandatory penalties for people convicted of crack offenses, but commuting the sentences represents the first time the reform has been applied to those convicted before it was adopted.
Reynolds Wintersmith Jr., Clarence Aaron and Stephanie George are amongst those who will be affected by the presidents’ decision. The three were featured in a recent report by the American Civil Liberties Union about the thousands of people serving life in prison for nonviolent offenses. The report revealed that more than 3,000 inmates were currently serving life without parole for drug, property and other nonviolent crimes as of 2012, comprising about 6 percent of the total life-without-parole population.
According to the report, Reynolds Wintersmith Jr., 39, has spent half of his life in prison. He was arrested at 19 for dealing drugs and declined a plea offer of 10 years, choosing to go to trial. He was a street dealer, but opened himself up to the life-without-parole sentence because he was held accountable for the entire amount of cocaine sold as part of a conspiracy in which he had a small role.
Clarence Aaron, 43, was sentenced to three life-without-parole sentences as a college student for playing a minor role in two large, planned drug deals. He wouldn’t testify against his co-conspirators, but they testified against him and received reduced sentences.
Stephanie Yvette George, 43, was sentenced to life in prison without parole at age 26 after the father of one of her children used her attic to store drugs and cash. The harshness of the sentence was due, in part, to prior convictions for selling small amounts of crack. Though George said she didn’t know the drugs were hidden in her home, six cooperating witnesses testified that she was paid to store cocaine.
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