Read EIO Co-Founder Vivian Nixon’s take on the President’s Prison visit, here.
There has been a lot written as to why President Obama’s visit to a Medium Security prison in Oklahoma should be hailed as a significant step for criminal justice reform. After all, his actions last week are more than any other president to date. Between commuting sentences, speaking at the NAACP convention, to becoming the first sitting president to visit a federal incarceration facility; there is a lot to unpack in his week-long criminal justice reform crusade. President Obama is to be commended for taking this step. However, while his actions have been championed for shedding light on a complex and often misunderstood topic, I would not call the week a “victory” or signal of change just yet.
His visit, the one hailed as history in the making; where our president goes “behind bars” to get a clear look at the hardships and missteps of our criminal justice system, was far from representative. As someone who has spent time in a prison, I was shocked to see President Obama walk through a quiet and empty cell block, one free of the very people he was there to better understand, the incarcerated individuals who call El Reno home.