Outgoing President Barack Obama, who is the only head of state to have granted the highest number of commutations in the US, added 330 federal inmates to the list on Thursday (19 January). With this, he has shortened prison sentences of a total 1,715 inmates, including 568, who were serving life imprisonment.

Obama and his family will vacate the White House on Inauguration Day to make way for President-elect Donald Trump.

According to the White House, Obama has granted more commutations than 13 past presidents combined. "The vast majority of these men and women are serving unduly long sentences for drug crimes," White House counsel Neil Eggleston said and added that after reviewing each of the inmates' stories, the outgoing president concluded that they have taken significant steps to correct their past mistakes and decided to give them a second chance.

"You and your stories have been essential to the President's successful exercise of his clemency authority. As the President has written to you, your example will influence whether someone in similar circumstances will get his or her own second chance in the future. Make the President proud with how you use your second chance," he added.

Meanwhile, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said that the Office of the Pardon Attorney had processed more than 17,000 petitions since the leniency plan called Clemency Project was launched in April 2014.

"By restoring proportionality to unnecessarily long drug sentences, this Administration has made a lasting impact on our criminal justice system," Yates added.

US President Barack Obama
US President Barack Obama pauses during his last press conference at the White House in Washington, US REUTERS/Joshua Roberts