Obama commutes sentences of 98 people

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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Thursday commuted the sentences of 98 inmates, most of whom were convicted on nonviolent drug charges, the White House announced.

With Thursday's announcement, that brings the total number of sentences commuted by Obama during his presidency to 872 individuals, 688 in 2016, "more than the previous 11 presidents combined," the White House said in a blog post.

"These are individuals -- many of whom made mistakes at a young age -- who have diligently worked to rehabilitate themselves while incarcerated," White House Counsel Neil Eggleston wrote in the blog post.

The commutations are part of a White House push to bring existing sentences -- many given under the conditions of strict "mandatory minimums" no longer in place -- in line with current standards.

Obama has argued the severe sentencing practices more than 20 years ago, a byproduct of the larger "war of drugs," have destroyed communities and led to an exploded prison population that far exceeds the rest of the world.

Earlier this year, the White House said the number of inmates who have applied for pardons or commutations has increased sharply in the final year of Obama's tenure, creating a backlog of requests for his team to process before he leaves office in January.