Obama, the first president to visit a federal prison



Arriving at the federal prison in El Reno, Oklahoma, Barack Obama became Thursday the first president of the United States in office to visit a US prison. This movement puts the spotlight on the flaws of a costly prison system.

US prisons are also among the most crowded in the world, ahead of China and Russia. A quarter of the world’s prison population is concentrated in US jails, while the United States represents only 5% of the world population.

“We have to see if this is the most sensible way for us to control both the crimes and rehabilitate the people,” the president said during his visit.

“We must see if 20 years, 30 years of imprisonment for non-violent crimes are the best way to solve these problems,” said Barack Obama, who has commuted Monday 46 Americans to jail terms. They were convicted for the most part at least 20 years in prison for drug trafficking without violence.

After visiting a small cell for up to three inmates, the president said that the prisons were “extraordinary institutions in the system (judicial) but (they) had enormous overcrowding”. With 2.2 million prisoners throughout the country, the United States kept behind bars more men and women than 35 European countries combined.

Blacks and Hispanics are over-represented: 60% of prisoners come from these communities. They only represent 30% of the US population.

This mass incarceration caused an explosion in costs. The prison budget is $ 80 billion annually, a third of the budget of the Ministry of Justice.