Six South Carolinians are among the record-breaking 214 federal inmates who received commutations from President Barack Obama on Wednesday.
Federal inmates from Columbia, Saluda, Hartsville, Kershaw, Laurens and Cameron received commutations
“Altogether, I've commuted more sentences than the past nine presidents combined, and I am not done yet,” Obama wrote in a Facebook post. “Too many men and women end up in a criminal justice system that serves up excessive punishments, especially for nonviolent drug offenses.”
The president has used his constitutional clemency power to reduce the sentences of 562 people since he has been in office, according to the White House. That is indeed more than the past nine presidents combined, and it surpasses the previous single-day record of 151 commutations, set by Franklin Roosevelt in 1935.
This is a country that believes in second chances.
President Barack Obama, Facebook post
Of the six South Carolinians, four will have their sentences shortened to expire this Dec. 1. Most of them were sentenced for minor drug offenses. Their offenses also include possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime, possessing a firearm as a felon and possessing a firearm with obliterated serial numbers.
Two others had their life sentences reduced.
Lloyd Battles of Columbia, South Carolina, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2002 for conspiracy with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base, and aiding and abetting. He will serve 240 months instead.
562 Commutations granted by President Barack Obama, more than the past nine presidents combined
Another South Carolinian sentenced to life in prison, Timothy Adams of Hartsville, had his sentence commuted to 360 months. He has been in prison since 1995 for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine base.
On Wednesday, Obama shared a picture of a letter he’d received from a Florida inmate who was sentenced to life without parole for a nonviolent drug charge.
“Even the judge couldn't believe he was bound by law to hand down a punishment that didn't fit the crime,” he said. “We know that (his) story is all too common in this country – a country that imprisons its citizens at a rate far higher than any other.”
He said that although acts of clemency, such as pardons and commutations, could give some people second chances, the real challenge lay in overhauling the criminal justice system.
In 2014, Obama sought to bring attention to what his administration describes as oversentencing in federal prisons by directing the Justice Department to prioritize petitions for commutations from nonviolent offenders who were serving longer sentences than they would receive today if they were convicted of the same crimes.