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Drug crimes to the fore in presidential clemency announcement

Sixty seven life sentences commuted. Hundreds of prison inmates spared from additional years locked away behind bars in federal penitentiaries.

And, perhaps, thousands more commutations for prisoners in California and nationally to be announced in the months to come.

This is the writing that has been on the wall for some time now in the wake of U.S. Department of Justice policy guidelines issued over the past couple years regarding a softening of the harder edges closely linked with the country's long-time War on Crime and War on Drugs.

Candidly, the bedrock rationale of that conflict -- uppercased in a "lock them up for a long time" philosophy -- has been an abject failure in the minds of legions of criminal law experts and commentators, especially for its draconian sentencing dictates applicable to high numbers of drug offenders who are now in prison for first offenses and without any history of prior violence.

Things like mandatory minimum sentencing terms and reduced judicial discretion in fashioning criminal law outcomes in recent years are now largely discredited in a big way across a wide swath of the public and in a decidedly bipartisan manner.

And that has certainly underlain, in part, President Obama's strong use of his sentence commutation power, with the current chief executive cutting short the prison terms of select inmates at a rate flatly unparalleled by any other president in recent times.

In fact, notes one recent media article on the Obama administration's aggressive use of commutation powers to truncate the prison terms of some federal inmates, the president has invoked this singular prerogative during his presidency "more than the past nine presidents combined."

The aforementioned 67 prisoners noted above were part of a larger group of 214 inmates who had their sentences commuted just last week.

And the White House says that last Wednesday's commutation announcement was just a harbinger of what is yet to come before the president leaves office.

One prominent DOJ spokesperson states the department's view that "many more men and women will be given a second chance through the clemency initiative."

We will of course note the material details related to what might ensue in upcoming months.

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