Obama commutes prison sentences for 330 before leaving office

WASHINGTON, Jan 19 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama commuted the prison sentences of 330 federal inmates, particularly drug offenders, on Thursday, making his quest to reduce what he viewed as overly harsh punishments one of his final acts in office.

Obama leaves the White House on Friday, when Republican President-elect Donald Trump will succeed him.

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President Obama commutes Chelsea Manning's sentence
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President Obama commutes Chelsea Manning's sentence
U.S. soldier Chelsea Manning, who was born male but identifies as a woman, imprisoned for handing over classified files to pro-transparency site WikiLeaks, is pictured dressed as a woman in this 2010 photograph obtained on August 14, 2013.Courtesy U.S. Army/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
People hold signs calling for the release of imprisoned wikileaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning while marching in a gay pride parade in San Francisco, California June 28, 2015. Manning has appealed to an Army court to overturn her court-martial conviction, a court filing released on Thursday said. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage/File Photo
A placard showing Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden photos is seen during the Easter March for Peace in Roemerberg, Frankfurt, Germany, 06 April 2015. Some 2000 demonstrators gathered before the City Hall to advocate for peace, under the motto 'Stop war and war propaganda - Solve conflicts peacefully'. Thousands have gathered to participate in over 80 events for peace during the Easter period in Germany. (Photo by Horacio Villalobos/Corbis via Getty Images)
ODEONSPLATZ, MUNICH, BAVARIA, GERMANY - 2015/10/10: Demonstrators gather to protest against surveillance especially by the NSA. Amnesty International demands Obama to hand over his peace Nobel Price to Chelsea manning. (Photo by Michael Trammer/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted out of a courthouse during his court martial at Fort Meade in Maryland, August, 20, 2013. Manning, 25, the soldier convicted of giving classified U.S. files to WikiLeaks, could face as up to 90 years in prison for giving more than 700,000 classified files, battlefield videos and diplomatic cables to the pro-transparency website. Prosecutors asked for 60 years, while the defense asked the judge not to rob him of his youth. REUTERS/Jose Luis Magana (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW MILITARY)
Demonstration for Chelsea Manning in London, England, United Kingdom. Chelsea Manning (born Bradley Edward Manning) is a United States Army soldier who was convicted by court-martial in July 2013 of violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses, after disclosing to WikiLeaks nearly three-quarters of a million classified or unclassified but sensitive military and diplomatic documents. Manning was sentenced in August 2013 to 35 years imprisonment, with the possibility of parole in the eighth year, and to be dishonorably discharged from the Army. Manning is a trans woman who, in a statement the day after sentencing, said she had felt female since childhood, wanted to be known as Chelsea, and desired to begin hormone replacement therapy. From early life and through much of her Army life, Manning was known as Bradley; she was diagnosed with gender identity disorder while in the Army. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Demonstration for Chelsea Manning in London, England, United Kingdom. Chelsea Manning (born Bradley Edward Manning) is a United States Army soldier who was convicted by court-martial in July 2013 of violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses, after disclosing to WikiLeaks nearly three-quarters of a million classified or unclassified but sensitive military and diplomatic documents. Manning was sentenced in August 2013 to 35 years imprisonment, with the possibility of parole in the eighth year, and to be dishonorably discharged from the Army. Manning is a trans woman who, in a statement the day after sentencing, said she had felt female since childhood, wanted to be known as Chelsea, and desired to begin hormone replacement therapy. From early life and through much of her Army life, Manning was known as Bradley; she was diagnosed with gender identity disorder while in the Army. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
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The commutations were the most done in a single day, the White House said, and brought the total number of sentences reduced by Obama to 1,715.

"The vast majority of these men and women are serving unduly long sentences for drug crimes," White House counsel Neil Eggleston said.

The move means Obama has granted more commutations than any other U.S. president in history and, Eggleston said, surpassed the number granted by the past 13 presidents combined.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Chris Reese and Sandra Maler)

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