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Obama Makes History as First President to Visit a Federal Prison in Hopes of Criminal

Posted by Seth Chazin | Jul 20, 2015 | 0 Comments

President Barack Obama visited El Reno federal Prison in Oklahoma, where he sat down and talked to six inmates and prison officials as part of a television special to air on HBO. Obama stated that young people are prone to making mistakes and the criminal justice system has to find ways to better cope and reform them.

Obama's visit marked the first time any president had visited a federal prison, and came about during a week of actions focusing on the inequities of a system that disproportionately affects minority communities and is costing tax payers too much, while the system continues to fail in focusing on rehabilitation.

El Reno is a medium-security prison for nonviolent male offenders. Here, Obama met with six inmates where they shared their stories and got acquainted with one another. The President said that the stories he heard and the mistakes they made were not much different from those the president made in his youth, when he admitted to smoking marijuana and taking cocaine.  President Obama stated, “When they describe their youth and their childhood, these are young people who made mistakes that aren't that different from the mistakes I made and the mistakes that a lot of you guys made. The difference is they did not have the kind of support structures, the second chances, the resources that would allow them to survive those mistakes.”

He goes on saying that America needs to differentiate between violent crimes and people “doing stupid things,” Obama said. He also mentioned that many young people who end up in prison for nonviolent drug crimes grew up in communities where drug trafficking is prevalent.  The imposition of long prison sentences for these people has caused this country's overcrowded prison system.  The president emphasized that more resources need to be directed to education, support and rehabilitation.

In Philadelphia, President Obama pushed for reform as he addressed leaders and members of the nation's NAACP, at the 106th annual NAACP convention. He outlined a proposal to reform courtrooms, prisons, and communities in an effort to rebalance a system that has been “skewed by race and wealth.”

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About the Author

Seth Chazin

Seth P. Chazin has aggressively defended clients in thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases for over 30 years. He has extensive experience representing criminal defendants in federal and state court, while handling both state and federal appeals as well.


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“The death penalty is a lie, a misguided mistake born of anger and frustration. Capital punishment has become a perverse monument to inequality, to how some lives matter and others do not. It is a violent example of how we protect and value the rich and abandon and devalue the poor. The death penalty is a grim, disturbing shadow formed by the legacy of racial apartheid and bias against the poor that condemns the disfavored among us, but corrupts us all. It’s the perverse symbol elected officials use to strengthen their ‘tough on crime’ reputations and distract us from confronting the causes of violence. It is finally the enemy of grace, redemption and all of us who recognize that each person is more than their worse act.”
- Bryan Stevenson