President Obama recently visited the El Reno Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, becoming the first sitting president to visit a federal prison. The next day he spoke about prison reform at the annual NAACP conference in Philadelphia.
In his speech, the president cites statistics like the fact that our incarceration rate is four times higher than China’s. He also points out that the U.S. makes up only 5% of the world’s population but houses 25% of the world’s inmates.
In addition to the social justice reasons he talks about, President Obama reminds us that locking up so many of our citizens comes at a staggering financial cost. The President informs his audience that the price we pay to keep everyone in our prison population locked up for one year is enough to eliminate tuition at every single one of our public colleges and universities.
Recognizing the dire situation we are in, President Obama has made prison reform a priority for his remaining 18 months in office. Unfortunately, so far his efforts have stalled in congress.