For the first time in history, a U.S. president will be visiting a federal prison. President Barack Obama planned to visit El Reno Federal Correctional Institution outside of Oklahoma City on Thursday. The visit is part of a coordinated effort by the president to make important changes to our nation's criminal justice system.
Obama Wants to Reform the Federal Criminal Justice System
During his visit to the facility, Obama will meet with nonviolent drug offenders and law enforcement officials separately. Although there is some question about how secure the president will be at the prison, Ex-Secret Service Deputy Director Danny Spriggs told reporters that a prison is a very controlled environment and therefore much safer than a lot of public venues. According to the White House press secretary, they plan to take special steps to ensure the president's safety during the visit.
Some of the criminal justice reforms Obama wants to make include the elimination and/or reduction of mandatory minimum sentences related to people convicted of non-violent drug crimes. Earlier this week, Obama made public statements advocating passionately that our nation must find a different way to deal with people who have been issued lengthy prison sentences that are unfair.
Obama Said That Punishments Do Not Fit the Crimes
Earlier this week, Obama commuted the sentences of a handful of people serving life sentences for non-violent drug crimes. Obama said that for individuals convicted of drug dealing or parole violations, they should not be sentenced to 20 years and they should not be sentenced to life in prison. He said that these severe punishments do not fit the crimes in such cases.
Obama further pointed to the fact that taxpayers are forking over approximately $80 billion per year to lock up and take care of these prisoners who could be rehabilitated and re-released into society as positive contributors to the nation at a much cheaper cost. Obama further stated that felons who served their time should be granted voting rights again and employers should stop asking applicants to disclose their criminal histories.
Issues relating to prison reform and the unjust treatment of prisoners often fall under the category of civil rights law. There are numerous civil rights cases filed by prisoners every year who claim to have been mistreated and/or denied their rights while held in prison facilities.
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