President Barack Obama has made history yet again by becoming the first sitting president to visit a federal prison. The president arrived at the El Reno Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, this morning to meet with law enforcement and inmates. After his visit, the president plans to sit down with VICE for an interview that will be included in an HBO documentary on the criminal justice system in the United States.
The president has recently become more vocal about criminal justice reform and has made the overhaul of the system a top domestic priority. At the annual conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, held in Philadelphia on Tuesday, President Obama spoke on the matter, saying, “In too many places, black boys and black men, and Latino boys and Latino men, experience being treated different under the law. Mass incarceration makes our country worse off and we need to do something about it.”
In the speech, President Obama called for legislation that would make sentencing fairer and reduce minimum sentences for non-violent drug crimes. Backing up his words with action, the President recently commuted the sentences of 46 non-violent drug offenders who were sentenced to lengthy prison terms for their activities. It remains to be seen how much change he can affect in the system in his remaining time in office.
Reforming the criminal justice system has appealed to both sides of the aisle in Congress. Former First Lady Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic frontrunner, has come out as an advocate for easing mandatory minimum sentencing laws, along with Republican presidential contender Senator Rand Paul and Charles and David Koch, the industrialist billionaires.
Support for new sentencing laws has spread across the political spectrum as more evidence of the consequences of mass incarceration continue to reveal themselves. President Obama said, “The eyes of more Americans have been opened to this truth. The good news — truly good news — is that good people of all political persuasions are starting to think we need to do something about this.”