President Barack Obama is pushing criminal-justice reform
by Frederick H. Lowe
President Barack Obama on Thursday will become the first sitting president to visit a federal prison in order to meet with staff, inmates and law-enforcement officials as part his effort to push reform in the criminal- justice system. System reform is now being embraced by both Democrats and Republicans.
President Obama will visit U. S. Federal Correctional Institution, El Reno, a medium-security prison in Canadian County, Oklahoma, 30 miles west of Oklahoma City. The prison also houses a minimum-security prison camp. The prison and prison camp house nearly 1,300 inmates.
The president’s visit came three days before he commuted the sentences of 46 nonviolent drug offenders. The entire visit will be shown in a Vice News documentary special on HBO this Fall.
Recently, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers, the NAACP, the conservative Koch Brothers, ACLU and other groups expressed support for The Safe, Accountable, Fair, and Effective (SAFE) Justice Act of 2015, which would push sweeping criminal justice reform legislation.
The bill, H.R. 2944, introduced by U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, (D-Virginia), who is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin), takes a broad-based approach to federal sentencing.
“We cannot allow our criminal justice system to remain on its current trajectory,” said Sensenbrenner. “It is not only fiscally unsustainable, but morally irresponsible.”
The SAFE Act would, among other things, concentrate prison space for violent and career criminals. In addition, it would reduce crime by investing in evidence-based crime-prevention initiatives and by increasing funding for community-based policing and public safety initiatives.
Shane Smith, founder of Vice News, said, “There is an emerging consensus in this country — on both the right and the left — that the way we treat criminal offenders is utterly broken and weakening our society in profound ways.”