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Biden to commute sentences of 11 nonviolent drug offenders

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Ariana Figueroa

President Joe Biden granted clemency Friday to nearly a dozen people serving “disproportionately long sentences” for nonviolent drug offenses as part of his administration’s effort to rectify disparities in sentencing.

“All of them would have been eligible to receive significantly lower sentences if they were charged with the same offense today,” Biden said in a statement.

Additionally, Biden is issuing a proclamation that will “pardon additional offenses of simple possession and use of marijuana under federal and D.C. law,” including use and possession on certain federal lands.

“Criminal records for marijuana use and possession have imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities,” Biden said. “Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time that we right these wrongs.”

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Joe Biden

He urged governors to follow suit.

“Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely due to the use or possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either,” Biden said.

A majority of the 11 individuals granted clemency, will have their sentences end early in the new year, and two of those people will have their sentences reduced from life imprisonment to decades.

Deondre Cordell Higgins of Kansas City, Missouri, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2011 for distributing cocaine, will have his sentence commuted to 25 years.

Leroy Lymons of Pensacola, Florida, who was sentenced in 2012 to life in prison for conspiracy to distribute a substance that had a detectable amount of cocaine, will have his sentence commuted to 27 years.

Earlie Deacon Barber of Dothan, Alabama, and Darryl Allen Winkfield of Augusta, Georgia, had their life sentences commuted to expire in April.

Barber was sentenced in 2009 to life in prison for possession and conspiracy to distribute a substance containing cocaine, and Winkfield was sentenced in 1998 to life in prison for possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute.

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This is not the first time Biden has granted clemency. In April of last year, he granted clemency to nearly 80 people charged with nonviolent crimes.

Out of that list, three were pardons and 75 were commutations, which is a reduction in that individual’s prison sentence. Those were the first pardons and commutations of Biden’s presidency — a power granted under the Constitution.

Three of the individuals on Friday’s list will have their sentences commuted to end in February, including Kenneth Winkler of Indianapolis, Indiana; Quittman Andre Goodley of Austin, Texas; and James Michael Barber of Gastonia, North Carolina.

Several of the people will have their sentences commuted to expire in April, including Felipe Arriaga of Sunnyside, Washington state; Anthony Ewing of Union City, Georgia; Angel Rosario of Allentown, Pennsylvania; and Esaias J. Tucker of Tallahassee, Florida.

“[W]hile today’s announcement marks important progress, my Administration will continue to review clemency petitions and deliver reforms that advance equal justice, address racial disparities, strengthen public safety, and enhance the wellbeing of all Americans,” Biden said.

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