By Alana Wise and Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Wednesday commuted the sentences of 61 federal prisoners serving time for drug crimes, bringing his total commutations to 248 individuals, which the White House said was more than the previous six presidents combined.
The move reflects Obama's push to reform the U.S. criminal justice system to reduce the number of people serving long sentences for non-violent drug crimes, reforms that have garnered bipartisan support from lawmakers.
"Throughout the remainder of his time in office, the president is committed to continuing to issue more grants of clemency as well as to strengthening rehabilitation programs," White House Counsel Neil Eggleston said in a blog post announcing the decision.
Obama was slated to meet with a group of people who have received commutations on Wednesday to discuss their experiences after prison.
The Justice Department launched a program in April 2014 to identify prisoners who are serving time for crimes they were sentenced for under laws that have since been changed to carry less severe punishments.
Applicants qualify only if they have no record of violence, no significant ties to a gang or drug cartel, have been in prison at least 10 years and have demonstrated good behavior while incarcerated.
(Reporting by Alana Wise and Roberta Rampton; Editing by James Dalgleish)