President Barack Obama commuted the prison sentences of 61 drug offenders on Wednesday as part of his ongoing plan to reform the criminal justice system, ABC News reports.

In a letter to the inmates receiving shortened sentences, Obama said the presidential power to grant commutations and pardons “embodies the basic belief in our democracy that people deserve a second chance.” Most of the inmates will be released on July 28 and are non-violent drug offenders who have been credited with good behavior.

A recent White House blog post reported there have so far been 248 reduced inmate sentences under the Obama administration – more than the last six presidents combined.

Via ABC News:

In a bid to call further attention to the issue, Obama met for lunch Wednesday with people whose sentences were previously commuted to hear about the challenges of re-entering society. One of the former inmates, Kemba Smith, was seven months pregnant when she turned herself in on crack cocaine charges, and she served more than 6 years before former President Bill Clinton granted clemency in 2000. She went on to study social work and become an advocate, the White House said.

“Their stories are extraordinary,” Obama said after dining at a Washington eatery. “We’re all imperfect. We all make mistakes.”

Several of the 61 offenders are currently serving life sentences. Chicago native Jesse Webster is serving life for intent to sell cocaine and filing false tax returns. Robert Anthony Anderson from Kentucky was sentenced in 1994 and convicted of possession, intent to sell cocaine, and aiding and abetting. Judges admitted Webster’s sentencing was too harsh.

Obama is also planning to meet the offenders personally and hear their stories face to face.

White House counsel Neil Eggleston added that clemency is the last resort in criminal justice reform, and more work has to be done to “strengthen rehabilitation programs.” He also added the implementation of a fairer system can begin to fix decades of mistakes.

SOURCE: ABC News | VIDEO CREDIT: Inform, Facebook

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