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More Obama commutations to come

President Barack Obama has commuted the sentence of four North Carolina inmates convicted of crack-cocaine charges and further sentence reductions may be on the way.

Jerry Allen Bailey of Charlotte, who was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment plus 10 years of supervised release in April 1996, will have his sentence cut by 65 percent. He and three other North Carolinians will be released from custody on Nov. 10 and will typically go to a halfway house to aid their transition from prison, according to a press release from the Department of Justice.

The other North Carolina prisoners who had their sentences commuted were Telisha Watkins of Charlotte, John Brower of Carthage, and James Woods of Leasburg.

Obama wrote a letter to Bailey on July 10 notifying him of his pending release.

“I wanted to personally inform you that I will be granting your application for commutation,” Obama said. “The power to grant pardons and clemency is one of the most profound authorities granted to the President of the United States.”

Prior to the Fair Sentencing Act, drug users would have to possess 100 times the weight of powder cocaine to receive the same sentence as crack cocaine user, according to Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

In April 2014, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted unanimously to reducing sentencing guidelines for most drug trafficking offenders. Then in July 2014, they voted to make the sentence reduction retroactive.

According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s 2014 annual report, the commission may receive more than 40,000 motions to retroactively apply the 2014 drug amendment.

While courts are considering motions, prisoners who receive the reduced sentence won’t be released prior to Nov. 1.

The administration is expected to announce more commutations and sentence reductions, but the Department of Justice would not say how many there would be and if they would affect other North Carolina prisoners.

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