Reducing the sentences of scores of Americans incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses was a huge priority over the last eight years. This action effectively worked to undo the injustices of laws promulgated during America’s declaration of “war on drugs,” such as mandatory minimum sentencing laws. If you had not followed the news reports about former President Obama’s efforts to commute the sentences of nonviolent offenders, you might be surprised to learn that some people were serving life sentences for just possessing or selling drugs. In some cases, very small amounts.
Just before leaving office, Obama reduced the sentences of more Americans serving unjust lengths of time for their offenses, CNN reports. In total, he reduced the sentences for 1,385 individuals, far more than his predecessors. During Obama’s tenure, the White House received more than 30,000 petitions for clemency. President Obama, writing in the Harvard Law Review, said that his own history influenced his decision to undo the injustices that arose from American drug policy in the last few decades.
“This is an effort that has touched me personally, and not just because I could have been caught up in the system myself had I not gotten some breaks as a kid,” Obama wrote. “By shifting the narrative to the way clemency can be used to correct injustices in the system — and reminding people of the value of second chances — I worked to reinvigorate the clemency power and to set a precedent that will make it easier for future presidents, governors and other public officials to use it for good.”
It is likely that not everyone who deserved a break regarding their past, got one. However, the move made to shine a light on how mandatory minimum can do more harm than good and will hopefully continue in the coming years. But, only time will tell for sure. Lawmakers need to continue to take a more enlightened approach to how addiction in America is viewed.
Addiction to drugs and alcohol is not a crime, it is a disease that cannot be treated via incarceration. Promoting treatment and continued recovery has been, and will continue to be the best weapon to use in the war declared in 1971 by President Nixon.
If you are a loved one is struggling with drugs or alcohol, please contact Hope by The Sea. Help is only a phone call away.