Obama shortens prison sentences for 153 people, pardons 78 others

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[December 20, 2016]  HONOLULU (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama shortened the prison sentences for 153 convicts, mainly low-level drug offenders, and pardoned 78 others, the White House said on Monday.

Obama has commuted the sentences of 1,176 federal prisoners, the White House said, as part of a push to reduce the number of people serving long sentences for non-violent drug offenses.

In 2014, Obama announced he would use his clemency powers to reduce sentences he saw as overly harsh. That came after criminal justice bills aimed at non-violent drug offenders stalled in Congress.

The White House said Monday's commutations and pardons were the most acts of clemency in a single day by any U.S. president.

In addition to commuting sentences, Obama has pardoned 148 people in total. White House Counsel Neil Eggleston said they were people who led "productive and law-abiding" lives and contributed to their communities after being convicted.

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President Barack Obama listens as he participates in his last news conference of the year at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 16, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

 

Eggleston said in a blog post released by the White House that he expected Obama would issue more commutations and pardons before leaving office in January, but he said only Congress could make broader changes to the criminal justice system.

(Reporting by Emily Stephenson; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and; Dan Grebler)

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