WASHINGTON (AP) — More than a decade ago, a judge bemoaned that the life sentence she was about to impose on Charles C. Brown was overly harsh. This week, relief finally came to Brown, along with 57 other offenders.
President Barack Obama on Thursday commuted their prison terms as part of a broader push to revamp the criminal justice system and ease punishments for nonviolent drug convicts.
Eighteen of the 58 had been given life sentences and some have already spent more than decades in prison. Most are now due for release on Sept. 2. Others will be released over the next two years.
The latest wave — among them defendants convicted of either possessing or dealing cocaine, crack and methamphetamine — brings to 306 the number of inmates whose sentences Obama has commuted, the vast majority for drug crimes. The administration has said the pace of commutations is expected to increase as the end of Obama’s presidency nears.
The prisoners given commutations have been “granted a second chance to lead productive and law-abiding lives,” said Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates.
“Our clemency work is continuing as part of our broader efforts to effectuate criminal justice reform and ensure fairness and proportionality in sentencing,” Yates said.
Brown, a Rhode Island man, was sentenced in 2004 to life in prison on crack cocaine charges. The judge in the case, Mary Lisi, lamented during the sentencing hearing that federal law left her with “no choice” but to impose the life sentence because of the amount of crack involved and because of his prior convictions. She said the sentence was not what she would have imposed if it was up to her.
With Thursday’s announcement, Brown’s sentence now ends on Sept. 2.