Story highlights

The White House announced the administration is commuting the prison sentences of 61 people Wednesday

President Barack Obama will also meet with incarcerated individuals

CNN —  

President Barack Obama commuted the prison sentences of 61 people who were serving time for drug offenses, the White House announced Wednesday, furthering his push to reform what he sees as overzealous sentencing laws.

To highlight his efforts, Obama spent an hour Wednesday afternoon having lunch with former prisoners whose time behind bars had been shortened.

“By exercising these presidential powers, I have the chance to show people what a second chance can look like,” Obama said after his meal.

He was joined by three people whose sentences he had commuted, along with four others whose terms were reduced by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

In his short remarks, Obama singled out Phillip Emmert, who served fourteen years in federal prison after being handed a 27-year sentence for conspiring to distribute methamphetamine.

“This is an example of what we mean when we talk about second chances,” Obama said.

Emmert said Obama’s presence at lunch was a surprise – one that touched him.

“I told President Obama today that you never want to underestimate the power of one act of kindness,” Emmert said in an interview. “It changes people’s lives. When they see that people really do care about