Occupying President Obama on final day: criminal sentencing reform

Rather than spending his final day in office idly watching the hours go by and otherwise attending to purely personal affairs in readying himself for the transition to a new government, outgoing President Barack Obama was busy with his pen on the final day of his tenure.

A number of Indiana residents might want to write him a thank-you note.

Those individuals, along with many thousands of other similarly situated people, have long been under the yoke of draconian outcomes imposed by stringent federal sentencing guidelines.

Prisons in Indiana and across the county are stuffed with inmates serving truly eye-opening terms for transgressions deemed by many to be relatively minor.

Few people will reasonably object to a stringent term imposed on a callous and brazen individual who harms others through violence. As indicated by a clarion call for sentencing reform that has broadly emerged across the country, though, the same cannot be said in cases where inmates languishing behind bars for decades are locked up as first offenders on nonviolent drug charges.

A legion of critics views such an outcome as being flatly irrational from any cost-benefit perspective and further believes that alternative outcomes are available that better serve both offenders and the public.

Ex-President Obama unquestionably subscribes to that view, as evidenced by his unparalleled activism in invoking his commutation powers. On his last day in office alone, Obama granted drug-related commutations to 330 prisoners. During his tenure, notes one national media report, Obama “granted commutations to more people than the past 12 presidents combined.”

Will the trend toward leniency in select drug cases continue into the new administration?

Although it’s too soon to tell, obviously, it seems clear that activism on the part of President Trump would be broadly welcomed by a progressively increasing band of reform advocates on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures across the country who are clamoring for change.