WASHINGTON — President Obama surpassed the 1,000 mark in prison commutations Tuesday, ending the sentences for 79 mostly non-violent drug offenders.
The current total of commutations — 1,023 — is more than the 11 previous presidents combined.
Obama, who has called for an overhaul of federal sentencing laws, said in a Facebook post that "it makes no sense" for non-violent offenders to serve "decades, or sometimes life, in prison" because laws of laws passed years ago in the wake of the government's "war on drugs."
"That’s not serving taxpayers, and it’s not serving the public safety," Obama said in his post. "Instead, it burdens our already overcrowded prisons. And it hurts families."
While most of the names on the pre-Thanksgiving list involved drug offenses, some were convicted on firearms crimes related to drugs.
Criminal justice groups are urging Obama to go farther with commutations and pardons.
"Today, we joined a growing group of advocates asking President Obama to expand the scope of his clemency initiative to include a larger number of nonviolent drug offenders in extremely low-risk categories," said Jessica Jackson Sloan, national director of a group called #cut50.
Sloan also noted that "clemency is the one administrative action President Obama can take that will not be overturned by an incoming Trump administration."
On Facebook, Obama said that "good minds on both sides" in Congress should "come together to restore fairness in our criminal justice system, use our tax dollars more effectively, and give second chances to those who have earned them."