Politics

Obama Makes Prison Reform A Top Priority Heading Into His Last Year (Video)

| by Robert Fowler
President Barack ObamaPresident Barack Obama

HBO’s “Vice” will air a documentary this upcoming Sunday, Sept. 27, exploring President Barack Obama’s historic July visit to a Oklahoma prison (video below). Obama has made it clear that prison reform is one of his administration’s highest priorities going into the final stages of his presidency.

Obama became the first sitting president to visit a federal corrections facility when he visited El Reno federal prison last July. During his tour, he met with six inmates, shook their hands and sat down with them to listen to them describe the decisions that put them behind bars and their hopes for their future. 

Obama describes the the U.S. Justice system as “unjust,” specifically regarding nonviolent drug offenses, which disproportionately impact racial minorities and the impoverished.

“This is an area where the statistics are so skewed, you have to question whether we have become to numb to the cost that it has on these communities,” he tells inmates in the upcoming documentary, according to Reuters.

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The U.S. is only 5 percent of the world’s population but contains 25 percent of its prisoners, Vice News reports. The current U.S. prison system also reportedly costs taxpayers around $80 billion a year. 

“As a society we seem to be OK with certain communities being locked in this cycle where kids are being raised drug crime,” Obama adds when speaking to the inmates.

After meeting with the six prisoners, the president told reporters that “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," according to Vice News.

"The difference is, they did not have the kind of support structures, the second chances, the resources that would allow them to survive those mistakes," Obama continued.

In July, Obama commuted the sentences of 46 nonviolent drug offenders, The Washington Post reported at the time.

“I believe that at its heart, America is a nation of second chances,” the president said in a Facebook video in July. “And I believe these folks deserve their second chance.” 

While the President has made it clear that he will continue to pardon nonviolent drug offenders who have been lost in the system, he also notes that it will be up to congress to reform U.S. prison systems and sentencing policies. 

Sources: Reuters, The Washington Post, Vice News

Photo Credit: The White House / Flickr, Marc Nozell / Flickr