President Obama said that young people in prison have made mistakes that aren’t much different than the mistakes he’s made.
“These are young people who have made mistakes that aren’t much different than the mistakes I’ve made and the mistakes that a lot of you guys make,” Obama said while inside the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution Thursday outside of Oklahoma City, Okla.
Obama is spotlighting his new prison reform program, loosely defined at the Department of Justice as “The Clemency Project,” which saw the commutation of 46 drug offenders’ sentences this week.
“How could society have reached them earlier in life?” Obama said, relaying the concerns of some of the prisoners he talked to.
“Three fully-grown men in a 9 x 10 cell,” he said on the issue of “overcrowding” (but noticed that the prison has cut down to two per cell). “Gang activity, sexual assault inside these prisons.”
America needs to “start making a change … break this cycle of young people, particularly young people of color, are so fraught to end up in a criminal justice system that makes it harder for them to ever get a job, and ever be effective full citizens of this country.”
“We have an opportunity to make a difference at a time when, overall, violent crime rates have been dropping at the same time as incarcerations dropped last year for the first time in 40 years,” Obama said.