by Mary C. Piemonte
Our country continues to faces “a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration that traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities,” according to U.S. President Barack Obama.
In his weekly address, on Oct. 17, 2015, the President highlighted the ongoing problems in our criminal justice system, specifically with the rates of crime and incarceration of non-violent offenders.
He said that there are 2.2 million people behind bars in America today, compared to 500,000 just 30 years ago, and he declared that more non-violent offenders have been locked up than ever before over the last few decades.
“That’s the real reason our prison population is so high,” he added.
Obama also talked about “the unfairness” of much of the criminal justice system since his time in the Senate. And said that while his administration has taken steps to address this issue, members of both parties agree that more can be done.
Over the next few weeks, the President plans to travel the country and meet with Americans who are working to fix the criminal justice system.
“From law enforcement officials working to lower the crime and incarceration rates, to former prisoners who are earning their second chance,” Obama said.
The President said he will also keep working with lawmakers from both parties who are determined to get criminal justice reform bills to his desk.
Earlier this month, Obama said Democrats and Republicans came together in the Senate to introduce such a bill, one he said that would reduce mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenders, and reward prisoners with shorter sentences if they complete programs that make them less likely to commit a repeat offense.
He said there is a similar bill working its way through the House, and said he was encouraged by these kinds of bipartisan efforts.
“This is progress – not liberal ideas or conservative ideas, but common-sense solutions to the challenges we face,” Obama added.
The President also “promised” to continue to work with Congress to pass “meaningful criminal justice reform that makes the system cost-effective, fairer, and smarter, while enhancing the ability of law enforcement to keep our communities safe.”
“From the halls of Congress to the classrooms in our schools, we pledge allegiance to one nation under God with liberty, and justice, for all. Justice means that every child deserves a chance to grow up safe and secure, without the threat of violence. Justice means that the punishment should fit the crime And justice means allowing our fellow Americans who have made mistakes to pay their debt to society, and re-join their community as active, rehabilitated citizens.”
“Justice has never been easy to achieve, but it’s always been worth fighting for. And it’s something I’ll keep fighting for as long as I serve as your president,” Obama said.