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Spotlight clearly on presidential commutation power last week

Like many other states, Tennessee is unfriendly terrain to individuals who are arrested and criminally charged on drug-related offenses. A high percentage of state and federal inmates are serving notably lengthy prison terms for crimes involving drugs

One particular aspect of such sentencing outcomes has been attracting high-level attention nationally in recent years, with a steadily increasing coalition of like thinkers stepping forth to demand material reforms.

The subject matter: decades-long prison sentences — and sometimes life terms — meted out to nonviolent drug offenders. There is no paucity of tales from across the country detailing manifestly harsh outcomes for even first offenders with no prior criminal history convicted on possession charges involving relatively small amounts of drugs.

As noted, a coalescing viewpoint — on both sides of the political aisle — has emerged over the past handful of years stressing that material reform is long overdue in the justice system.

There is perhaps no better illustration of the momentum underlying reform than the commutation powers that have been exercised by former President Obama, both during his final term generally and in breathtaking fashion on his very last day in office.

During his presidency, Obama commuted the criminal sentences of many nonviolent drug offenders, finding in their cases that the punishment did not fit the crime.

The numbers speak loudly, with the 1,715 Obama-era commutations numbering more than what was cumulatively granted by the dozen chief executives who preceded the 44th president.

Reportedly, the 330 commutations granted by Obama to nonviolent drug inmates on his final day of office amounted to the largest number of commutations on any single day in American history.