Obama Vis­its Prison To Call For A Fairer Jus­tice Sys­tem

The Star (St. Lucia) - - INTERNATIONAL -

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama got a first-hand look at the na­tion’s crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem tour­ing a fed­eral prison and meet­ing with in­car­cer­ated men. Af­ter peer­ing into a ster­ile prison cell, he said the na­tion needs to re­con­sider the way crime is con­trolled and pris­on­ers are re­ha­bil­i­tated. Obama, who has vowed to make crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form a cen­tre­piece of his clos­ing months in of­fice, said he also felt a kin­ship with some of the young in­mates.

“When they de­scribe their youth and their child­hood, these are young peo­ple who made mis­takes that aren’t that dif­fer­ent than the mis­takes I made,” Obama said fol­low­ing his pri­vate meet­ing at the El Reno Fed­eral Cor­rec­tional In­sti­tu­tion, a medium-se­cu­rity prison for male of­fend­ers near Ok­la­homa City.

The Pres­i­dent said there must be a dis­tinc­tion be­tween young peo­ple “do­ing stupid things” and vi­o­lent crim­i­nals. Young peo­ple who make mis­takes, he said, could be thriv­ing if they had ac­cess to re­sources and sup­port struc­tures “that would al­low them to sur­vive those mis­takes”.

Among the changes Obama is seek­ing is the re­duc­tion or out­right elim­i­na­tion of se­vere manda­tory min­i­mum sen­tences for non-vi­o­lent of­fend­ers. Ear­lier this week, he used his pres­i­den­tial pow­ers to shorten the prison sen­tences of 46 peo­ple con­victed on charges in­volv­ing drugs.

The Pres­i­dent has also called for restor­ing vot­ing rights to felons who have served their sen­tences, and said em­ploy­ers should “ban the box” that asks job ap­pli­cants about their crim­i­nal his­to­ries.

The White House said Obama was the first sit­ting pres­i­dent to visit a fed­eral prison. The pres­i­den­tial mo­tor­cade rolled past fences topped with mul­ti­ple lay­ers of ra­zor wire as it en­tered the sprawl­ing prison com­plex.

Af­ter his meet­ing with in­mates, Obama walked past rows of empty cells se­cured by large grey doors. Prison of­fi­cials opened cell no. 123 for the Pres­i­dent, who gazed at its sparse trap­pings: a bunk bed and third bed along the wall, a toi­let and sink, along with a small book­case and three lock­ers. “Three full­grown men in a 9-by-10 cell,” he said.

Obama has ex­pressed hope that Congress will send him leg­is­la­tion to ad­dress the is­sue be­fore he leaves of­fice in 18 months, given the level of in­ter­est in the is­sue among Repub­li­can law­mak­ers and pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates.

Pres­i­den­tial se­cu­rity was no small part of the in­trigu­ing Obama out­ing.

Pres­i­dent Obama this week spoke up in sup­port

of prison re­form.

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