Statement On President Obama Commuting the Sentences Of More Than 200 People Serving Federal Prison Time

Washington, DC — We applaud the President’s move to commute the sentences of 214 people currently serving federal time but call on him to do more. President Obama and his administration must find a way to bypass a bureaucracy of their own making and dramatically increase the speed and number of clemencies.

With just 24 weeks left in office, he must meet his ambitious yet achievable goal of providing relief to “thousands” of incarcerated individuals who are serving overly harsh sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.

“The 214 commutations granted yesterday are historical and show President Obama is committed to restoring the sense of fairness at the heart of our justice system,” said Brittany K. Byrd, the newly hired campaign manager for #cut50’s #ClemencyNOW initiative. “I am hopeful the President will continue to mercifully grant clemency to the thousands of others who deserve relief, like Corey Jacobs, who is serving his 17th year of a life sentence as a first-time non-violent drug offender.“

“Life in federal prison is a fundamental death sentence,” said Brittany.  “Requiring hundreds of people like Corey Jacobs to die in prison for non-violent drug offenses is an utter waste of human life and taxpayer dollars. Progress was made today, but there is definitely a lot more work to do.”

We also urge Members of Congress in both the House and Senate to urgently move forward in passing bipartisan federal legislation, which is the only way to create lasting change to the federal system.

Brittany K. Byrdjoins #cut50 as the new campaign manager for #ClemencyNOW. Combining her passion to help others with her experience as the daughter of an incarcerated mother, Brittany recently resigned from her job as a corporate attorney to follow her passion for criminal justice reform and continue her tireless advocacy for federal prisoners seeking clemency from President Obama.

While working as a corporate attorney, Brittany was personally responsible for three successful clemency applications, completed on a pro bono basis, including Sharanda Jones who was serving a life sentence for a first-time non-violent drug offense. Brittany is the founder of Girls Embracing Mothers, a non-profit in Texas dedicated to empowering girls with mothers in prison. In 2013 Brittany was named as a "National Outstanding Young Lawyer Finalist" by the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyer Division, "Outstanding Young Lawyer of Texas" by the Texas Young Lawyers Association and "Outstanding Young Lawyer of Dallas" by the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers for her professionalism, commitment to serving the community through Girls Embracing Mothers and dedication to helping others.

Fast Facts on the Mass Incarceration Crisis in America:

  • Research shows that people commit crimes at roughly equal levels across ethnic groups, but African Americans and Latinos make up 70% of the federal prison population -- despite being only 27% of the U.S. Population.

  • The federal prison system is full of non-violent drug offenders. According to the bipartisan Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections, nearly 50% of federal prisoners (95,305) are incarcerated for drug crimes and almost half (45%) have little to no criminal history.

  • More Black men are imprisoned, on probation, or on parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began.

  • 1 in every 3 Black men can expect to spend time behind bars

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#cut50 is a program of The Dream Corps, an organization that links economic, environmental and criminal justice innovators inside a single organization, and supercharges their strategies with world-class partnerships, smart digital tools and national media access.

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