The PJ Tatler

Obama Commutes Crack Sentences to Help 'Right a Decades-Old Injustice'

President Obama commuted the sentences of eight people and granted pardons to 13 more today, with all of the commutations granted to those jailed for crack cocaine offenses.

One inmate’s sentence was commuted to time served. Jason Hernandez of McKinney, Texas, sentenced to life in prison in 1998,
was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute controlled substances, possession with intent to distribute and distribute crack cocaine and methamphetamine, possession with intent to distribute a mixture of methamphetamine and cocaine hydrochloride, distribution of a controlled substance between 1,000 feet of a protected property and establishing a place for manufacture and distribution of controlled substances; Obama commuted his sentence to 20 years.

The other six will be released on April 17.

The charges for the pardoned individuals include drug crimes, mail fraud, armed bank robbery and embezzlement.

“Three years ago, I signed the bipartisan Fair Sentencing Act, which dramatically narrowed the disparity between penalties for crack and powder cocaine offenses. This law began to right a decades-old injustice, but for thousands of inmates, it came too late.  If they had been sentenced under the current law, many of them would have already served their time and paid their debt to society. Instead, because of a disparity in the law that is now recognized as unjust, they remain in prison, separated from their families and their communities, at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars each year,” Obama said.

“Today, I am commuting the prison terms of eight men and women who were sentenced under an unfair system. Each of them has served more than 15 years in prison. In several cases, the sentencing judges expressed frustration that the law at the time did not allow them to issue punishments that more appropriately fit the crime,” he continued.

“Commuting the sentences of these eight Americans is an important step toward restoring fundamental ideals of justice and fairness. But it must not be the last. In the new year, lawmakers should act on the kinds of bipartisan sentencing reform measures already working their way through Congress. Together, we must ensure that our taxpayer dollars are spent wisely, and that our justice system keeps its basic promise of equal treatment for all.”