In a visit where he is expected to push for criminal-justice reform, President Barack Obama will become the first sitting president to visit a federal prison when he travels to Oklahoma next week.
On Thursday, Obama will meet with law enforcement officials and inmates at El Reno Federal Correctional Institution outside Oklahoma City. According to a White House press release, the president will also be conducting an interview for a “Vice” documentary focused on the criminal justice system in this nation.
The documentary is set to air this fall on HBO.
This is far from the president’s first time tackling prison reform — earlier this week White House officials announced that Obama would issue orders to free a number of federal prisoners; a move that would commute more sentences at one time than in recent history. The president has long discussed the effort to correct the tough and unfair sentencing that disproportionately affects minority men. In a White House video posted in March, the president told David Simon, the writer of Obama’s favorite television series The Wire, that unfair sentencing for low-level offenses and nonviolent drug offenses destroys communities.
“The challenge is folks go into prison at great expense to the state, [and] many times [are] trained to become more hardened criminals while in prison, come out and are basically unemployable and end up looping back in [to prison]” Obama said.
“Nobody incarcerates their population at this level,” Simon replied.
And in a rare show of solidarity, sentencing and prison reform seems to be a bipartisan issue, garnering support from Democrats, Republicans, and those in between.
Criminal justice reform has emerged as an issue with potential for bipartisan action on Capitol Hill. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Jon Cornyn (R-Texas), have introduced separate legislative efforts in past years.
During his Oklahoma trip, the president is also scheduled to travel to Durant to visit with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma to discuss expanding economic opportunity.