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President Biden commutes the sentences of 31 people convicted of drug crimes

President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference with South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol on April 26, 2023, in Washington, D.C.
Andrew Harnik
/
AP
President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference with South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol on April 26, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has commuted the sentences of 31 people convicted of nonviolent drug crimes who were serving time in home confinement, the White House announced Friday.

Many would have gotten a lower sentence if they were charged today with the same offense because of changes in the laws. A commuted sentence means they'll spend less time in home confinement.

The commutations came as the White House announced a set of policy actions across 20 different agencies meant to improve the criminal justice system, which disproportionately affects Black and other non-white communities. The president announced his reelection campaign this week, and must keep Black voters in his coalition if he wants to win in 2024.

The plan is an effort to expand health care access, affordable housing and education, and make it easier for those who have been mixed up in the system to get jobs, higher education and vote. The effort includes a plan to make more grants available for people who need funding for education, and small business loans.

Those whose sentences were commuted included men and women convicted of drug possession in Iowa, Indiana, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Hawaii and Texas, and they will all finish serving time June 30. If any are in prison, they will finish out their terms in home confinement, and won't have to pay the rest of their fines which range from $5,000 to $20,000.

Roughly 600,000 U.S. residents leave prison each year, and another 9 million cycle in and out of jail. As many as one in three Americans has a criminal record. That stigma can make it hard to get a job, go back to school or start a business.

"Far too many of them face steep barriers to getting a job or a home, obtaining health care, or finding the capital to start a business," said outgoing domestic policy adviser Susan Rice, the first person to hold both national security and domestic policy adviser positions in the White House. She is leaving her post after two years and her last day is May 26.

"By investing in crime prevention and a fairer criminal justice system, we can tackle the root causes of crime, improve individual and community outcomes, and ease the burden on police," she said.

The Democratic president has commuted the sentences of 75 other people so far. He also pardoned thousands who were convicted of "simple possession" of marijuana under federal law, and others who have long since served out their sentences.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press
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