Obama Ferguson
U.S. President Barack Obama expected to grant to grant more clemency petitions in his final two years in office (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is cutting short prison time for eight drug convicts under a new policy designed to reduce harsh sentences under outdated guidelines.

The eight commutations are the first under a new administration policy designed to reduce the nation’s bulging prison population and grant leniency to nonviolent drug offenders sentenced to double-digit terms.

The president also is pardoning 12 other convicts for a variety of offenses.

Administration officials say they expect Obama to grant more clemency petitions in his final two years in office under the changed policy. The changes aren’t limited to drug offenders, but they are the main target.

Administration officials say 6,500 people already have applied for clemency this year, compared to 2,400 last year.