President Obama and Prison Reform

By · Saturday, March 14th, 2009

I feel confident that President Obama will take significant steps forward with regard to prison reform. I know that our country faces significant challenges going forward. American citizens are rightfully concerned about the economic crisis that has brought high unemployment. They want to see reduced costs and expanded coverage for health care. They want reforms to our nation’s education system. The time will come for prison reform. When it does, I feel confident that President Obama will exercise leadership and rely upon objective data to guide his decisions.

Richard is a criminal justice student who wants to know what I believe we can expect with regard to prison reform. Obviously, as a long-term prisoner I do not have an inside track on information. Nevertheless, I can infer that President Obama will act decisively. I base my influence on what I have read of his leadership thus far.

Matt Kelley reported on The End of Federal Raids on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries. That change marks a decisive break from the policies that existed under Bush. It provided further evidence that President Obama would not allow politics to drive his leadership. He recognized that science trumped ideology when it came to leadership.

In speaking about his decision to provide federal funding for stem-cell research, President Obama clearly stated that he would rely upon objective data from qualified experts to influence his decisions. I feel strongly that President Obama will use that same criteria when it comes to prison reform.

The Pew Report recently published data that shows the extraordinary expenditures Americans waste on confining more than 2.3 million people. Justice Anthony Kennedy, of the U.S. Supreme Court, said that our nation confines too many people and American prisoners serve sentences that are too long. Senator Jim Webb has called for prison reform panels. Many from academia have published findings showing that taxpayers receive more benefit through community-based sanctions for nonviolent offenders.

Prison lobbyists have driven the prison boom over the past two decades. And a paucity of leadership from prior presidents has resulted in extraordinarily high costs for taxpayers. I expect to see prison reforms under President Obama’s leadership that will change these trends.

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