Outgoing President Obama has shortened the prison sentences of another 79 drug traffickers, many of whom were also convicted on weapons charges or had prior drug convictions.
The new sentencing commutations mean that Obama has shortened jail sentences for more than 1,000 criminals, many of whom are quickly released from prison.
Drug overdoses take tens of thousands of American lives: More than 47,000 people died drug-induced deaths in 2014, including 10,574 from heroin. The FBI in its annual report on crime statistics found the murder rate rose a shocking 11.8 percent in 2015, with violent crimes increasing 3.9 percent from the previous year.
Because of Obama’s last-minute commutations, a former armed cocaine dealer will be back on Virginia’s streets in March. So will a convicted armed Philadelphia crack cocaine dealer, and a jailed armed California meth dealer. Another former armed Texas drug trafficker sentenced to life in prison had his sentence commuted to 38.75 years. An armed Florida cocaine dealer had his life sentence reduced to 25 years.
All told, 21 prisoners with gun-related charges, many of whom were also drug traffickers, just received reduced sentences from Obama.
One convicted heroin dealer, arrested for trying to sell more than 2.2 pounds of heroin, had his already reduced, 20-year sentence cut to a mere four months, and also was excused from paying a $10,000 fine. A woman convicted for conspiring to traffic over 1,000 kilograms (2,204 pounds) of marijuana, plus 11 pounds of powder cocaine, also had her unpaid $10,000 fine remitted. Another crack cocaine dealer also got a free pass on an unpaid $7,500 fine.
Heroin is synthesized from morphine, and once it reaches the brain, it turns back into morphine, “which binds to molecules on cells known as opioid receptors.” Some are located in the brain stem, which regulates breathing. An overdose may suppress breathing, causing permanent brain damage or death.
Heroin can be three times more potent than morphine. Traffickers will sometimes boost heroin with fentanyl, sourced primarily from Mexico or China. Fentanyl can be 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin—dousing the brain all at once. One quarter of a milligram can kill a person. To make matters worse, some dealers are mixing an elephant tranquilizer, carfentanil, into heroin batches. Carfentanil is 10,000 times stronger than morphine, and 100 times more powerful than fentanyl.
As The Atlantic explains,”opioids are chemicals that change the way the brain perceives pain. Some chronic-pain patients, experiencing relief for the first time in years, describe them as ‘a miracle.’ A pulled tooth might be agonizing, but with a little Vicodin, the brain thinks the mouth is in tip-top shape.”
Addicts “organize their whole lives around getting more opioids,” and unlike other chronic diseases or conditions, there is no one way to provide a cure, one expert said.
Much of the heroin epidemic is fueled by illegal immigration, with illegal alien drug mules bringing deadly drugs across the border as Obama further cuts border surveillance. The federal government has also reduced surveillance of the purchases and resales of legal painkillers.
Manufacturers who sold narcotic painkillers glossed over the addiction risks of their pills, while the medical establishment came to believe that chronic pain should not be endured. But painkillers are expensive, and some people slip into addiction via a cheaper alternative with similar effect: heroin.
Heroin addiction is gradual, as one user writes, and sneaks up on users: “I have literally never met anyone who was introduced to heroin with a needle. That’s roughly the equivalent of taking your first drink of alcohol by butt-chugging moonshine out of a gas can. The reality is a lot less abrupt, and a lot scarier: Most people start by popping and smoking pills. In that stage, it never seems like a problem, because you can use daily for weeks with no withdrawal effects whatsoever.”
“Once you’re at the stage where you’re even considering the needle, you long ago forgot about ‘squeamishness’ right along with ‘work’ and ‘everything else you ever wanted to accomplish in your life,'” he added.
Building up a tolerance means users seek more of the drug to reach the same high, leading to overdoses. Using needles to inject heroin spreads Hepatitis C and HIV, racking up massive healthcare costs and devastating lives.
The White House boasts that Obama is remedying “the unfairness at the heart of the system”:
The President has now commuted the sentences of 1,023 men and women incarcerated under outdated and unduly harsh sentencing laws, including 342 individuals who were serving life sentences. The majority were offenders sentenced for nonviolent drug crimes. To date, the President has granted commutations to more prisoners than the past 11 presidents combined. He has also granted 70 pardons and is committed to continuing to exercise the clemency power with additional grants of commutations and pardons throughout the remainder of his presidency.
None of the 79 prisoners with newly-reduced sentences were charged for simple possession. They participated in drug trafficking, an inherently violent enterprise.
Obama justified the commutations as “the right thing to do.”
At the heart of America is the idea that we’re all imperfect. We all make mistakes. We have to take responsibility and learn from those mistakes. And we as a society have to make sure that people who do take responsibility for their mistakes are able to earn a second chance to contribute to our communities and our country. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do. Now it’s up to good minds on both sides of the aisle to come together to restore fairness in our criminal justice system, use our tax dollars more effectively, and give second chances to those who have earned them.
The Obama administration has also released 30,000 convicts in federal prison, following revisions in sentencing guidelines, and may release another 40,000 criminals, according to Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton.