*(Via NBC News) – Even before he announced the early release of 98 nonviolent federal prisoners on Thursday, President Obama had granted more commutations than any president in modern history.

The new total, 872 — more than the past 11 presidents combined — reflects his attempt, in his final years in office, to soften the impact of war-on-drugs era policies that resulted in epic prison sentences for nonviolent offenders.

Forty-two of those granted commutation Thursday were serving life sentences.

“These are individuals — many of whom made mistakes at a young age — who have diligently worked to rehabilitate themselves while incarcerated,” White House spokesman Neil Eggleston said in a statement.

But as high as that number is, it is a small fraction of the nearly half-million people estimated to be incarcerated in federal, state and local jails on drug offenses today.

Related: The Spirals of Poverty and Mass Incarceration Upend Urban Communities

And it still leaves a long list of people hoping for a similar act of mercy from the president, who will leave office in January.

Federal prisoners applied in droves after Obama announced two years ago a push to free drug offenders who were sentenced to prison before the easing of notoriously harsh mandatory minimum laws in 2010.

Get the rest of this NBC News story at MSN News.