President Obama recently commuted the sentences of 98 more inmates—including 42 people who had been sentenced to life imprisonment—in a continuing effort to reduce harsh prison terms for nonviolent drug offenses.

The latest commutations increase the total he has granted to 872—easily exceeding the combined number of his 11 predecessors, who commuted a total of 715 sentences.

Margie Peerce, a partner at the firm Ballard Spahr who sits on the steering committee of Clemency Project 2014, said in an interview that while some have been frustrated with the rate of the president's commutations, they need to take into account that "you had an initiative that had to start from scratch," where 4,000 lawyers had to be trained to handle the petitions filed by roughly 37,000 inmates. There was a delay in getting the pre-sentencing report for the inmates, which were required as part of their application, and each case had to be assessed individually.

"I'm frankly amazed at how much has gone through," Peerce said. "If you'd had this infrastructure already in place, it would have gone much faster."

Peerce's firm represented three inmates who received clemency Thursday, including Brett Poore, who was sentenced to 262 months in prison and five years supervised release in connection with

methamphetamine charges. Poore earned his GED in prison, Peerce noted, and took maintenance classes and other courses while incarcerated.

"What is consistent throughout, and one of the things that has amazed me throughout this process, is that even people who are serving life sentences have tried to better themselves while in prison," she said.

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