President Obama just released 46 drug offenders because 'the punishment didn't fit the crime.'

"Their punishments didn't fit the crime."

Photo by Marc Nozell/Flickr.


President Obama commuted the sentences of 46 nonviolent drug offenders today. Some had been in prison for over a decade. Many were serving life sentences. A White House blog post refers to the sentences the 46 individuals received as "unduly harsh."

In a Facebook post, the White House noted that almost all of the people released today were sentenced long ago when drug laws were more stringent, and would have already finished their prison time if they had been sentenced under today's laws. All 46 of them will now have a chance to move on with their lives, which is long-overdue good news for them and their families.

Each individual receiving a commutation got a personal letter from the president upon their release. According to the Washington Post, this was the most sentence commutations in a single day since the Johnson administration.

For the people whose sentences were commuted, this is a really big deal. And symbolically, it's huge, too.

Photo by Oregon Department of Transportation/Flickr.

Jackie Johnson was sentenced to 20 years in prison for "possession with intent to distribute cocaine."

Jerry Allen Bailey was sentenced to 30 years in jail for "conspiracy to violate narcotics laws."

Larry Belcher was sentenced to life in prison for possession with intent to distribute.

We're used to hearing numbers like this in the United States. But if you take a step back, prison terms this long — for people who aren't at all violent — are mind-boggling. That's longer than many assault sentences, and even longer than the recommended sentence for manslaughter in some states.

Manslaughter, for the record, is killing someone.

Releasing these 46 individuals is a sign that the president recognizes the injustice of that — and that's really important.

Real talk: It's just the tip of the iceberg.

Photo by Bob Jagendorf/Flickr.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, nearly half of all federal inmates — just shy of 100,000 people as of May 2015 — are doing time for drug offenses. It is by far the largest category.

Many drug crimes carry mandatory minimum sentences, which mean no matter what the context of the offense is, judges are required to impose a sentence of a minimum number of years. Not only has this led to an untold number of horror stories of people sentenced to decades in prison for seemingly minor drug crimes, it has also helped the United States build the largest prison population in the world.

Releasing 46 people who had more than paid their debt to society is a fine start, but we still have a long way to go before we have a justice system that is truly fair to nonviolent drug offenders.

But in the meantime, props to President Obama for doing the right thing by these 46 people and for getting an important conversation started.

No one can give those 46 individuals their time back. But there are reports that Obama is actively trying to get the Justice Department to speed up the clemency process for other nonviolent drug offenders. That's fantastic.

Hopefully he'll succeed. Because there are a whole heck of a lot of people in prison right now who deserve a second chance.

Albert Einstein

One of the strangest things about being human is that people of lesser intelligence tend to overestimate how smart they are and people who are highly intelligent tend to underestimate how smart they are.

This is called the Dunning-Kruger effect and it’s proven every time you log onto Facebook and see someone from high school who thinks they know more about vaccines than a doctor.

The interesting thing is that even though people are poor judges of their own smarts, we’ve evolved to be pretty good at judging the intelligence of others.

“Such findings imply that, in order to be adaptive, first impressions of personality or social characteristics should be accurate,” a study published in the journal Intelligence says. “There is accumulating evidence that this is indeed the case—at least to some extent—for traits such as intelligence extraversion, conscientiousness, openness, and narcissism, and even for characteristics such as sexual orientation, political ideology, or antigay prejudice.”

Keep Reading Show less

"I now pronounce you, in debt. You may kiss the bride."

In 1964, Paul McCartney of the Beatles famously sang, “I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love.” While Mr. McCartney’s sentiments were definitely a major foreshadowing of the hippie, free-love movement that was to come in the ‘60s, it appears as though he was also onto a big truth that wouldn’t be proven for another 50 years.

Seven years ago, researchers Hugo M. Mialon and Andrew Francis-Tan from Emory University embarked on the first study to determine whether spending a lot on a wedding or engagement ring meant a marriage would succeed or fail.

The pair wanted to see if the wedding industry was being honest when it came to claims that the more money a couple spends, the more likely they are to stay together.

“The wedding industry has consistently sought to link wedding spending with long-lasting marriages. This paper is the first to examine this relationship statistically,” the researchers wrote.

Keep Reading Show less

Kelly Clarkson and Ariana Grande duked it out on Jimmy Fallon's 'The Tonight Show.'

There are pop stars, and then there are singers. While recording studio technology can make people sound like amazing singers, the proof is in their live performances.

Kelly Clarkson and Ariana Grande took it a whole step further on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," delivering not only a jaw-dropping live performance but doing so in the form of revolving pop diva hits in an "impossible karaoke" showdown. In less than five minutes, they showed off their combined ability to nail pretty much anything, from imitating iconic singers' styles to belting out well-known songs with their own vocal stylings.

Watch this and try not to be impressed:

Keep Reading Show less