Obama Visits a Federal Prison and Calls for Criminal Justice Reform

By Victoria Kim 07/22/15

President Barack Obama continued his call for criminal justice reform in Oklahoma last week.

President Barack Obama
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President Barack Obama continued his call for criminal justice reform last week when he visited the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in Oklahoma.

Obama, who is the first sitting president to visit a federal prison, toured the medium security penitentiary and sat down in a roundtable meeting with six inmates, all of whom were serving time for drug offenses.

More than 2.2 million Americans are behind bars, according to The Sentencing Project, and it’s costing taxpayers about $80 billion a year, the president noted at the Philadelphia NAACP conference earlier this month.

“We have a tendency sometimes to take for granted or think it’s normal that so many young people end up in our criminal justice system,” he said. “It’s not normal, it’s not what happens in other countries.”

Obama has been exercising his commutation power in his remaining time in office, shortening the sentences of 89 inmates so far, nearly all of them in prison for non-violent drug offenses and many who were sentenced under outdated laws, according to White House Counsel, Neil Eggleston. The president most recently commuted the sentences of 46 inmates last week.

“We have to consider whether this is the smartest way for us to both control crime and to rehabilitate individuals,” the president said during his visit to El Reno.

“These are young people who made mistakes that aren’t that different from the mistakes I made, and the mistakes that a lot of you guys made,” he told reporters after meeting with the inmates. “The difference is that they did not have the kinds of support structures, the second chances, the resources that would allow them to survive those mistakes.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr