Commutations continue for some drug-related sentences

Since President Obama announced his administration's clemency initiative in 2014, the sentences of more than 1,000 people who are serving prison time for non-violent drug offenses across the nation have been commuted, including some in Illinois. While lawmakers in Congress continue to stall reform measures directed at the criminal justice system, the Justice Department has proceeded to lessen the effect of outdated and overly stringent sentencing laws by recommending commutations in record numbers.

The most recent set of commutations that were granted on Nov. 22 reduced the sentences of 79 inmates. The director of one criminal justice reform group expressed gratitude to the president for the action while stressing that more can and must be done. With President Obama's term in its final months, she noted that the clemency effort represents the president's sole administrative action that will not be overturned by the incoming Trump administration and urged him to step up the effort.

A Reuters report indicates that more than 6,000 applications pleading for commutation remained pending as of Aug. 31. Few details are immediately available regarding the clemency that was granted in November, but it is likely that sentences considered unfit of the crime committed have been reduced.

Illinois residents who have been arrested on drug charges may be facing serious consequences if a conviction is obtained. These could include incarceration and heavy fines, and they might find it difficult to obtain suitable employment afterwards. As a result, they may want to meet with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss the various ways that the allegations could be challenged.

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