(Huffington Post) President Barack Obama on Thursday commuted the sentences of eight federal inmates who were convicted of crack cocaine offenses, greatly expanding his use of the presidential clemency power to help those incarcerated because of harsh drug laws.

In a statement, Obama said they’d been sentenced under an “unfair system.” In 2011, Congress passed a law that effectively reduced the federal government’s mandatory penalties for people convicted of crack offenses, but commuting the sentences represents the first time the reform has been applied to those convicted before it was adopted. “If they had been sentenced under the current law, many of them would have already served their time and paid their debt to society,” Obama explained in the statement.

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