One of the last official acts of outgoing President Barack Obama last week could hardly be termed trivial.
Indeed, the former chief executive took unprecedented action last Thursday, on the eve of the incoming Trump presidential administration, by commuting the sentences of many federal inmates serving lengthy incarceration periods on drug-related charges.
To be specific, the ex-president exercised his clemency powers to cut time off of existing sentences for 330 prisoners.
There was a time when such leniency would have come in for harsh criticism to a degree far exceeding that which exists today. Indeed, it has been growing discontent among many quarters with the harsh sentencing outcomes linked to policies crafted in prior decades that has largely emboldened Obama to act.
And act he has, with media reports across the country underscoring the impressive extent to which he has fostered material adjustment in high numbers of drug cases.
Throughout his presidential tenure, Obama railed against what he saw as a fundamental inequity in the criminal justice system, namely, the reality posed by thousands of inmates serving decades-long terms behind bars for relatively minor offenses. In fact, a chief complaint of system critics has long been that no one is served — not inmates, their families, tax payers or the general public — by lengthy lockups for first-time nonviolent offenders.
Obama granted clemency to more than 1,700 prisoners during his administration, which many media reports note is a number that far exceeds the clemency grants of any other American president and renders the former chief executive a stand-alone activist in that regard.