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Obama makes history by pardoning the sentences of 214 prisoners

US president has now commuted 562 sentences, more than the previous nine presidents combined.

President Barack Obama raises a toast at  a state dinner in the White House this week.
President Barack Obama raises a toast at a state dinner in the White House this week.

US PRESIDENT BARACK Obama has commuted the sentences of 214 drug offenders, the single biggest act of presidential clemency in over a century.

The White House said Obama had forgiven a fresh group of prisoners, including 67 who had been serving life sentences.

Most were guilty of non-violent crimes, many involving possession or distribution of crack cocaine.

The actions “represent the most grants in a single day since at least 1900,” said Neil Eggleston, the White House counsel to the president.

Obama has now made 562 commutations, Eggleston said – “more commutations than the previous nine presidents combined.”

The move is part of Obama’s effort to push ahead with criminal justice reform.

Obama US Singapore Source: J. Scott Applewhite

Black and Hispanic Americans

The United States currently has among the world’s highest incarceration rates and puts a disproportionate number of black and Hispanic Americans behind bars.

One often cited reason are mandatory sentencing laws for the use of crack that are tougher than those for cocaine.

Around 10.2 million people are imprisoned worldwide at any given time – nearly 2.2 million in the USA alone.

And the practice of imprisoning drug users is driving huge epidemics of infectious diseases such as HIV, according to major international research published recently.

© AFP, 2016

Read: Trump tells Virginia mother to get crying baby ‘out of here’

Read: The ‘War On Drugs’ is driving a global epidemic of HIV, TB and hepatitis

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