Obama Commutes Prison Sentence for Springfield, Massachusetts, Drug Offender

He was one of 61 who had their sentences shortened by the President

President Barack Obama commuted the prison sentence of a Massachusetts drug offender on Wednesday.

A federal judge in Massachusetts sentenced Manuel Colon of Springfield to 20 years in 2007 for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, crack cocaine and heroin, and another related charge. Under the president's order, he will now be released July 28.

In a letter last summer to the judge who sentenced Colon, his lawyer said Colon had already served 12 years in prison since his arrest in 2003. He said current sentencing guidelines would call for a sentence of seven to nine years - less than Colon has already served.

His lawyer said his client's behavior was not violent and he has a good conduct record in prison.

Colon was one of 61 drug offenders who had their prison sentences commuted by Obama, a move expected to renew calls for overhauling the nation's criminal justice system.

In a letter to the inmates, Obama said the presidential power to grant commutations and pardons "embodies the basic belief in our democracy that people deserve a second chance after having made a mistake in their lives that led to a conviction under our laws."

This brings to 248 the total number of inmates whose sentences Obama has commuted - more than the past six presidents combined, according to the White House.

The President has long called for getting rid of strict sentences for drug offenses that criics say lead to excessive punishment and high incarceration rates.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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