Barack Obama uses his presidential pardon to commute the sentences of eight federal inmates who were serving harsh sentences for drug-related crimes.
According to reports, the individuals, who have each served over 15 years in prison, were convicted of crack cocaine offenses. In a statement, the President said they were sentenced under an “unfair system.”
“If they had been sentenced under the current law, many of them would have already served their time and paid their debt to society,” he said of offenders sentenced before the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the government’s mandatory penalties for crack offenses. “Instead, because of a disparity in the law that is now recognized as unjust, they remain in prison, separated from their families and their communities, at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars each year.”
He added, the commutation “is an important step toward restoring fundamental ideals of justice and fairness,” reiterating his administration’s goal of cutting down the cost of lengthy incarcerations for non-violent crimes.
Obama also pardoned 13 other inmates. Their crimes included drug offenses, money laundering and theft.
According to a White House release, the commutations were granted to Clarence Aaron, of Mobile, Ala.; Stephanie Yvette George, of Pensacola, Fla.; Ezell Gilbert, of Tampa, Fla.; Helen Alexander Gray, of Ty Ty, Ga.; Jason Hernandez, of McKinney, Texas; Rickey Eugene Patterson, of Fort Pierce, Fla.; Billy Ray Wheelock, of Belton, Texas; and Reynolds Allen Wintersmith Jr., of Rockford, Ill.
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1. Debra Lee
"My favorite thing about the President is his commitment to people and the world [and] his ability to listen; the fact that he's smart and he has smart people around him; the way he empathizes with people. The way he handled the Newtown situation was just really incredible, and he's done that with all the issues that have come along during his first term. I'm looking forward to him being more comfortable going around and knowing the politics and accomplishing a lot more."
2. Tatyana Ali
"He smells good." [laughs] "The thing that I love about him, is his humility. He's really a humble man and he's a servant and that's not hype. He's here to be of service and I love that from a leader."
3. Ben Jealous-NAACP President
"He's cool. He has poise and swagger. He has cleaned his opponent two times in a row, and that's the best thing a president can do."
4. Boris Kodjoe
"I just like his leadership and swag. He's so aware of what the world needs. He's selfless. He has integrity, pride and commitment."
5. Mikki Taylor
"I think the most amazing thing about President Obama is he is his most authentic self and very much like the First Lady. He means what he says and he says what he means. He's not impacted by the impression of others. He says with great affirmation, 'We, the people.' That is what swells my heart with great joy."
6. Wilmer Valderamma
"He's one of the first presidents since Bill Clinton that we've been able to feel he's with us, right next to us. He feels like a neighbor to us. I respect his commitment to his agenda and looking forward to seeing a more aggressive Obama in the next four years and taking the knowledge and experience he's had in the last four years and implementing it with a sense of urgency. I hope he immediately attacks the immigration reform, which is what the Latin community really needs--to see the president is confident and the same time, honor the people who helped vote him in. Gay and lesbian rights is very important and and most importantly unite all cultures. I'm excited because he's a defining president and it feels like he's found a groove."
7. Wayne Brady
"Not only is he the leader of the free world--and this isn't because of race--he's the coolest president next to Bill Clinton, that we've ever had. When it's time to be stern, he does the 'president' thing. But then who busts out and sings, 'I'm so in love with you...' If he's not the coolest president, just for that? He gives orders to our nation's fleets and busts out Al Green. He wins."
8. Gabrielle Union
"Is it weird to say that he's black? All the things I'm thinking of, I so can't say!" [laughs] "You can see that he loves his wife and he loves his daughters. He's raising these two dope, beautiful, funny black women to be strong, fly and independent."
9. MC Lyte
"He remains calm in situations where it's most likely that others would be more revved up. Out of that calmness, we're able to see his vulnerability."
10. Kenny Lattimore
"I have a song called 'Built For Last,' and it speaks about the heart of a man I believe as a great leader, when I look at this man and the tenacity and he stands so confident, in spite of every obstacle and things that are thrown at him--it's an amazing characteristic. It's the reason we confide in him."
11. Judge Mathis
"His swag. He got it from me. I knew him from Chicago and we used to hang a little together. He saw my walk, and now he's president and I see him walking like me." [laughs]
12. Shaun Robinson
"I just think that he's a great role model. He's an honest man and he wants the best for everyone. I love the way he looks at his wife, Michelle. Every woman looks at him and how he looks at Michelle, like, 'Oh my God! That's so amazing!'"