President Barack Obama speaks during his visit to the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution outside Oklahoma City July 16, 2015.
After his meeting with inmates, Obama walked past rows of empty cells secured by large grey doors.
During his stop in Oklahoma, he said many of those in prisons were serving time because of mistakes they made when they were young.
Mr. President said the criminal justice system should do a better job of discerning between young drug offenders from hardened and poor backgrounds, violent criminals.
The trip caps off a week in which the president focused intently on criminal justice reform, specifically changes in how nonviolent drug offenders are punished.
He vowed to work with wardens and corrections officers to address overcrowding, a piece of his administration’s wide-ranging criminal justice reform agenda.
“That’s what strikes me – there but for the grace of God”, he said. The President noted: the USA accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population yet houses 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, putting its incarceration rate four-times higher than China’s.
President Obama makes remarks from Federal prison El Reno in OK.
This is an area in which Obama in a Wednesday press conference said he feels moderately optimistic regarding the prospects for Congress to act. “And I believe that these folks deserve their second chance”.
“Sentences are much much longer by order of magnitude than in other countries”, said Michele Deitch, a law professor at the University of Texas.
While many sitting presidents have avoided prisons, mainly because prisoners can not vote, Obama in recent months has worked hard to improve inmates’ lives and rectify unfair sentencing that has imprisoned one in every 12 Black men in America. What is normal is teenagers doing stupid things.
President Barack Obama spoke to six non-violent drug offenders at the federal prison in El Reno and said afterward that he was struck with how easily a young person with few resources could end up in prison.
The president also said the nation’s burgeoning prison population is a costly financial drain for the country.
Obama stayed at the hotel ahead of his visit today to a federal prison in El Reno, Oklahoma. “Obama visiting says to prisoners that you are not irrelevant”. On the other hand, when we’re looking at nonviolent offenders, majority are growing up in environments in which drug traffic is common, where many of their family members may have been involved in the drug trade. Many of them disproportionately incarcerate young African American and Latino men. “These 46 people are lucky”, said Julie Stewart, the founder and president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums.