Barack Obama made a visit to the Federal prison in Oklahoma on Thursday and furthered his push for a criminal justice reform. President Obama is the first sitting president to ever visit a Federal prison as an effort to highlight the challenges and opportunities of the criminal justice system.
Obama toured the El Reno Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, which holds 1300 inmates, a 146 percent of its capacity. He met and spoke with drug-offense inmates and told them that he could have been in their place if he did not have the advantage he had in his youth.
According to Reuters, after meeting the inmates he told reports that “These are young people who made mistakes that are not that different from mistakes I made. The difference is that they did not have the support structure, the second chances, the resources that would allow them to survive these mistakes.” He acknowledged that teenagers make stupid things, things that should not be taken for granted and that it is not normal to have so many young people in prisons. The six non-violent drug offenders that shared their stories with Obama and their discussions will appear on HBO’s “Vice” documentary program in September.
President Obama wrote a memoir of his life called “Dreams from my father” and confessed on using marijuana and cocaine as a youth and since then he has learned of his mistakes and that’s why he made his priority helping young black and Hispanic men through the program called “My brother’s Keeper.” He intends to continue this effort after he leaves office in 2017. According to Reuters he stated that the criminal justice system has many problems and overlooks many things, such as the overlook of prisoners’ biographies in regards to the fact whether they come from poor backgrounds or are violent criminals. He said “We have to consider whether this is the smartest way for us to control crime and rehabilitate individuals.”
According to Reuters, David Fathi, the Director of the National Prison Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, said that Obama would not see the real problems prisoners have, because he is visiting a medium-security prison and that the real problems exist at maximum-security prisons. Although he gave credit to Obama for the unprecedented visit and making the prison system’s flaws a matter of important discussion.
After touring the medium-security prison, Obama remarked on the overcrowding and promised to correct the problem working with wardens as a part of the agenda of the Obama administration’s criminal justice reform.
While being in his last months of the Presidential term, Democrat Barack Obama has succeeded in many victories such as the Pacific Rim trade partnership, the Obamacare health care law, same-sex marriage rights and the most recent historic victory of making a nuclear deal with Iran. He already has asked Congress to send him a prison sentencing bill by the end of the year. The overhaul of prison sentencing would be one of his last key goals of his stay in the White House.