US President Obama cuts sentences of 111 inmates as part of criminal justice reform

Jamal Hanson (right) one of 58 prisoners recently pardoned by President Barack Obama, with his mother Teresa Dawkins in College Park, Maryland.
Jamal Hanson (right) one of 58 prisoners recently pardoned by President Barack Obama, with his mother Teresa Dawkins in College Park, Maryland. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON (AFP) - United States President Barack Obama on Tuesday (Aug 30) commuted the sentences of 111 drug offenders and other inmates, setting a record for such White House moves in a single month.

The latest grants came on top of 214 early releases Mr Obama agreed to earlier this month, for a total of 325 in August.

Mr Obama, whose second term ends in January, has trimmed 673 prison sentences since coming to office in 2009 - more than the previous 10 presidents combined.

The President is thus making good on his call for second chances in the US penal system.

Prisoners benefitting from these shortened sentences are supposed to no longer present a threat. Most were low-level drug dealers who were facing heavy sentences due to a penal system critics say imposes excessive sentences for such crimes.

About a third had been handed sentences of life in prison.

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

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.