One thing I found compelling about our president’s historic trip to the El Reno medium security prison was he wanted to hear the stories of these individuals—about their childhood and how they ended up in prison. He said he could relate to many of the young individuals there because he has made many similar mistakes in his youth and could have been persuaded to the wrong path of life. He wanted them to understand that their current situation should not forecast the rest of their life. Maybe that is one reason why he is the first sitting president to visit a prison. I guess no one else has had any slip-ups throughout the course of their life except for President Obama (Yeah, right).
It is an extremely smart move on his part, also. The best way to understand a system and determine ways to improve it with reform is to actually view it. That way, one can formulate a personal opinion of the place, without influence of others, and get intake from those who deal with the environment each day.
So, when the president visited the prison, he had his chance to observe and understand the conditions of everyday prisoners. It seemed he was most shocked about the living arrangements, as two to three grown men could easily be housed in one cell that (as I would describe it) is even tinier than small college dorm rooms. Overcrowding in prisons, which is not a new issue, is getting worse. Heck, that could be why we have been hounded with so much coverage of escaped convicts recently. (not a new issue, either)
Obama concluded his justice reform escapades with a speech in Philadelphia that outlined his plan to review of the use of solitary confinement, discontinue mandatory minimum sentences and prevent job applicants from being asked about their criminal history.
“We’ve got to be able to distinguish between dangerous individuals who need to be incapacitated and incarcerated versus young people who… if given different opportunities, a different vision of life, could be thriving.”
I could not have said it better myself.
Obama has received over 15,000 petitions for commutation since 2009 and to date, with the addition of the 46 individuals last week, has granted 67. That’s more than the number granted by Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan at the same stage in their presidencies.
Bill Clinton has admitted and taken part responsibility for the overcrowding issues in prisons. In 1994, Clinton signed into law a crime bill that included the federal “three strikes” provision. This mandated life sentences for criminals convicted of a violent felony after two or more prior convictions, including drug crimes. Many offenders have found themselves on the wrong end of this law.