Barack Obama Becomes the First Sitting President to Visit a Federal Prison

During his historic visit of the El Reno Correctional Facility, Obama expressed grave concern for the future of prison reform.

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Complex Original

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To actively critique the United States criminal justice system is to engage in a process of continual understatements, even when spouting off profoundly troubling statistics. African Americans are currently incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of white citizens — not to mention the fact that African Americans make up nearly 1 million of the 2.3 million total incarcerated population, according to the NAACP. This list of institutionalized inequalities sadly goes on and on, often proving daunting for anyone to fully absorb or even attempt to intercept with actual reform.

Thankfully, President Barack Obama has made such reform a crucial component of his fourth-quarter approach. During his historical visit of the El Reno Correctional Facility in Oklahoma on Thursday, Obama expressed grave concern for the future of an already detrimental prison overcrowding problem in the U.S. After meeting with inmates and getting a firsthand look at a 9 ft. by 10 ft. cell, Obama spoke candidly about the ridiculousness of nonviolent offenders often having their lives ruined by a single misstep. "When they describe their youth and their childhood," Obama told the Associated Press, "these are young people who made mistakes that aren't that different than the mistakes I made."

Obama's visit was filmed as part of a forthcoming HBO documentary, featuring an interview with the president by VICE founder Shane Smith. The special, centered on the desperate need for criminal justice reform in the U.S., is expected to debut later this year.

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