This post originally appeared on AdictingInfo.org
It’s possible to get a lot of different presents for the holidays. Some cheap, some expensive, some lousy and some that will be treasured always. However, there is hardly ever a time when a person can say they gave someone their life back as a holiday gift.
President Obama just managed to be able to say that very thing nearly one hundred times over, when it was announced that he commuted the sentence of 95 prisoners, 40 of which were serving life sentences. The majority of these convictions were non-violent drug-related offenses.
President Obama is a blessing on this country for many reasons, including his courage to call out the nation on our failed War on Drugs. Earlier in the year, he commuted the sentence of 46 other individuals who were also convicted of non-violent drug offenses. 14 of that number were serving life without parole. “Their punishments didn’t fit the crime,” Obama said regarding the convictions.
The U.S. accounts for about 5 percent of the world’s population, but has about 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated individuals. Couple this with the fact that non-violent drug offense incarceration costs American taxpayers up to $80 billion a year, and you can see how reform is desperately needed. Keep in mind that the $80 billion is just for the incarceration, it does not include the money spent on law enforcement activities that are used to monitor, arrest or send these people to trial.
To put $80 billion into perspective, the entire US deficit for the 2015 budget year was $438.9 billion. Being able to save money on the ridiculous war on drugs would put a sizeable dent in the remaining debt problems facing America. Legalizing and regulating the sale of things like recreational marijuana on a federal level would likely put an even bigger dent in it.
The commutations that President Obama granted Friday brings his total up to 184. This is higher than the total number granted by the past five presidents combined. This holiday season, let’s all be thankful we have a leader who is brave enough to show mercy – despite this nation’s obsession with throwing people in jail.
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