The White House on Friday declined to confirm reports that President Obama is set to commute the sentences of dozens of nonviolent federal drug offenders next week, but also wouldn't rule out the possibility.
The president over the last few months has listed criminal justice reform as one of his top remaining priorities of his presidency, and has taken particular exception to long prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.
Several media reports in recent days have said Obama is poised to free dozens of federal prisoners serving time for nonviolent drug sentences. If it happens, it could be the most sentences a president has commuted at any one time in nearly a century.
Asked to confirm the reports Friday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he didn't have any "additional information" to offer but added that "as a general matter" the president has used his executive authority previously to commute sentences of some non-violent offenders.
"I certainly wouldn't rule out that possibility that he would utilize that kind of authority in the future," he said.
The commutations are expected next week when Obama makes the first presidential trip to a federal prison in Oklahoma Thursday as part of his push to reform the nation's criminal justice system.
The president will visit a medium security prison in El Reno, Okla. While at the prison, Obama will participate in an interview with VICE as part of a documentary the outlet will air in the fall on the criminal justice system.
It will come just two days after he visits to Philadelphia, where he will be addressing the NAACP's annual conference. He plans to speak there about changing sentencing guidelines for non-violent offenses that have disproportionately affected African-Americans and other minorities.
The president enjoys bipartisan support for criminal justice reform on Capitol Hill. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is a vocal supporter of tackling a sentencing overhaul, and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., along with Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., introduced a criminal justice system reform package in late June.