KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- In his push to reduce severe penalties in drug cases, President Obama on Thursday commuted the sentences of eight federal prisoners convicted of crack cocaine offenses.
Six of the eight were serving life sentences and all have spent more than 15 years behind bars. You may remember Willie Mays Aikens -- a former first baseman for the Kansas City Royals.
Aikens had established himself as one of the top sluggers in baseball before drugs derailed his career and he ended up in a federal courthouse and then federal prison. He said hearing about President Obama's commutations Thursday made him feel like he was freed from prison all over again.
Family photos where Aiken's is dressed in a prison jumpsuit aren't how most people picture Aikens, nor are they typical.
"God has blessed my life," Aikens explained to FOX 4's Macradee Aegerter while discussing his thoughts on Thursday's news.
In the photos, Aikens is shown year after year in his grey prison issued jumpsuit, smiling with his wife and kids, while at the same time incarcerated in a federal prison.
"I was sentenced for 64 grams of crack cocaine. A person with powder cocaine can 6,400 grams or 6.5 kilos and fall under the same sentencing guidelines as me," he said.
A local attorney said that Aikens' case shows that the problem wasn't reserved for one socioeconomic class.
"He would be an example that it just didn't happen in the poor communities in the city," said David Langston, who's represented many defendants facing federal drug charges.
It was during his heyday with the Royals when Aikens was busted for crack cocaine and sentenced under what President Obama says is now recognized as an "unfair system."
"The cry went out, that you're treating the upper middle class who snorts cocaine differently than your treating the person in the deprived neighborhood who uses crack," Langston said.
Aikens said he's no different from the eight relieved of their crack cocaine sentence by the President Thursday.
"Most people that kill somebody, they don't serve that much time and that's the reason why these people deserve a second chance. I mean I was given a second chance and I straightened my life out," he said.
In fact, Aikens said he spent more than half of his sentence in a Georgia federal prison with Clarence Aaron, one of the eight people given a second chance, five years after Aikens was given his.
"I started crying. And that's because of happiness. Being so excited for these brothers. I mean I spent a lot of time with Clarence Aaaron. And finally," Aikens said.
Aikens got out of prison after serving 14 years of a 21-year sentence when the US Sentencing Commission changed the sentencing guidelines for crack.
According to Families Against Mandatory Minimums, close to 9,000 people are serving time for similar crack offenses committed before Congress reduced mandatory minimum sentences, going forward, in the 2010 law.