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President Obama’s Prison Reform

 

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A coalition of Democrats and Republicans guided by President Obama are calling for reform of the harsh federal criminal sentencing laws that have contributed to our crisis of mass incarceration. The United States has 25% of the world’s inmates despite having only 5% of the world’s population. The Urban Institute has reported that the federal prison population is in excess of 218,000 inmates. The federal inmate population in 1980 was approximately 25,000.

The federal and state prisons are filled with aging nonviolent drug offenders. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws-guidelines,  and the draconian “three strikes, you’re out” statutes, have contributed to our national crisis of mass incarceration. The elimination of parole in 1987 for federal inmates was another major factor causing a ten fold increase in the federal prison population since 1980.

On Monday, July 14th, President Obama commuted the sentences of 46 nonviolent drug offenders. In a Facebook video,  the president stated that the 46 prisoners had served sentences far in excess to their crimes. One of the 46 federal inmates was Douglas M. Lindsay, a first-time nonviolent offender.He was sentenced to life in prison in 1996. Mr.Lindsay was an Army veteran who worked with adults with mental disabilities. Sarah Godfrey of Families Against Mandatory Minimums  indicated that Lindsay sold crack,“in what he now recognizes as a misguided attempt to finance his college education.”

Ronald Evans was not one of the 46 inmates given clemency by President Obama. Ronald Evans, of Virginia, was 18 years old when he was sentenced to life without parole for cocaine conspiracy. He was imprisoned for life even though he had only a mid-level role in a gang that he had joined at the age of 16. Ronald Evans, a nonviolent offender, is now 41, and has served 23 years of his life sentence.

Our prisons nationally are overcrowded by an estimated 40 percent. It can cost up to a million dollars to warehouse a nonviolent young inmate for life. There are 2.3 million Americans presently incarcerated in our federal, state, and local prisons and jails. Many of the inmates were convicted of nonviolent drug offenses.  May President Obama and his coalition of Democrats and Republicans succeed with their prison reforms. It is time to bring this madness to an end.

By: Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com

 

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22 Responses to President Obama’s Prison Reform

  1. PrisonPath July 17, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    Anita Washington
    Thank you! now let the lawsuits begin.

  2. PrisonPath July 17, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

    I am not opposed to clemency. Some people simply do not belong in jail/prison. That said, I hope they incorporate a seriously comprehensive plan, when they investigate the past and present history of these convicted felons, as well as their known associates, prior to that “stroke of the pen”….. this needs to be a pro-active program, not another re-active, knee-jerk bandaid to address a big problem.They also need to employ a well planned re-entry program for these people, or you can almost guarantee they will eventually break the law and end up back in jail or prison.
    What I would like to see more of is “compassionate release” for seriously disabled or terminally ill inmates. Now that inmates would be instantly eligible for some form of health insurance and or Medicaid upon (or prior to) release, millions of dollars could saved at the county, state, and federal levels, and lighten the burden of poor John Q tax payer.

    By–Connie

  3. PrisonPath July 17, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

    Tommy:
    I wish someone would solicit my input on who is deserving of clemency and who isn’t. But as no one asked for my input…you get what you get

  4. PrisonPath July 17, 2015 at 1:01 pm #

    Bonnie Kern
    Here is another aspect of overcrowding in prisons:

    Columbia University divesting from private prison companies. Why other schools should too.

    In 1985, the divestment campaign educated Americans about the brutality and racism of the South African regime and demanded that U.S. businesses not make money on the backs of apartheid’s victims. In 2015, anti-prison campaigners call attention to the brutality of mass incarceration and the money made on the backs of incarcerated people. And, like their anti-apartheid predecessors, current activists expose the vast financial rewards reaped by companies that deprive individuals of freedom, wrest loved ones from families, and destroy communities while also draining state governments of tax-paying citizens. The anti-prison campaigners intend to stir consciences and undermine a brutal regime, this time hidden in our own backyard.

    Later in the article:

    We also don’t think enough about how these industries influence politicians through lobbying and donations.

    CCA states in its 2010 Annual Report, “The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by . . . leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices . . . .” That same year CCA and another prison company received nearly $3 billion dollars in revenue.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/07/15/columbia-university-divesting-from-private-prison-companies-why-other-schools-should-too/

  5. PrisonPath July 17, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

    As been stated many times before the whole CJS needs to be reviewed. There are to many laws on the books that make our citizens criminals. The system need to be looked at from top to bottom. There are many people in jail/prison who deserve to be where they are and there are many who shouldn’t be in jail or prison. Once the system has you, it is hard for the system to let you go. The President is bring the system to the forefront and forcing some people to take a look at it. Everyone is this country is paying for this system one way or the other. Our money could be used for other purposes such as providing the proper mental health care for the citizens who need it and keeping our homeless off the streets and in proper shelters or homes.
    By-Harold

  6. PrisonPath July 17, 2015 at 1:03 pm #

    Kathi-
    I think Obama needs to stay out of the prison system. He will only screw it up like he has everything he has touched. Our system may need some review but not from the white house.

  7. PrisonPath July 17, 2015 at 1:03 pm #

    Harold–I don’t understand, or maybe I do, how you can make a statement as above. The President brings attention to the subject. He is not going to change anything, he is just bring national attention that something has to be done. If you check President Obama’s record, with an open mind, you will find out that he has accomplished a lot to bring this country back from the whole that was left by the president he replaced and he did it without the help of Congress.

  8. PrisonPath July 17, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

    Tommy–
    All presidents do this and all go through the same scrutiny concerning the choices they’ve made. I know if it were my loved one doing time I wouldn’t care if it were Gandhi or Attila the Hun who granted him clemency. And if you feel you are among those eligible to judge a kindness given to another soul? Good luck to you

  9. PrisonPath July 17, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

    Harold–
    I don’t think the President went to the prison to grant clemency to anyone, I don’t know. I think he just wanted to bring national attention to the fact that this country has over 2 million citizens behind bars and maybe, maybe the system needs to be looked at. Maybe some of our citizens could take another path instead of the path that makes them a criminal.

  10. PrisonPath July 17, 2015 at 1:06 pm #

    I heard on the news tonight that 16 presidential candidates, both republican and democrats, are speaking out for prison reform.

    By: Bonnie

  11. Spago54 July 20, 2015 at 3:10 pm #

    I definitely think that the “War on Drugs” has imprisoned many far to harshly. Irrespective, if one continually participates in illegal drug activity they must be punished harshly. We know that approximately 90% of crimes are commit while under the influence of an illegal substance, therefore making them dangerous and unpredictable. In my opinion, when they classified all drug dealing as a violent crime it became a larger obstruction for the convicted inmate. Though drugs do lead to crime, “drug dealing” is in itself is not a violent act. Therefore do we punish the drug dealer for the knowingly distributing a illegal substance for monetary gain that leads to violent crimes? It is hard to place all of the responsibility on the dealer, but if not for the perpetrator receiving the the drug possible they would not have committed the crime. The laws need to reevaluated and written regarding drug crimes, and sentencing. I think what Obama did was necessary for some of those individuals. There are plenty of cases out there where young offenders are spending the majority of their lives in prison for petty drug dealing. We might as well have given them the death penalty. I don’t claim to have the answers, because civil liberties cloud the issue.

  12. PrisonPath July 20, 2015 at 6:06 pm #

    Could you explain ” misguided, judgmental Americans.” ?
    By:John

  13. PrisonPath July 20, 2015 at 6:07 pm #

    Andrew–
    So Stephanie, maybe we should open the doors and let them all out! See how safe you are then. Your statement is the most idiotic thing I have ever heard.

  14. PrisonPath July 20, 2015 at 6:08 pm #

    Bonnie–
    Andrew, I do not have a problem with you calling me an ‘excon’ because I did do time over forty years ago:

    Kern, Bonnie L, Tribute to Laurel Rans, Association of Women Executives in Corrections, Volume 2 Number 4, pp 1, 3-5, March 2009
    http://www.awec.us/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/March09newsletter.pdf

    I completed my sentence and was released in 1969. I received my undergraduate degree in sociology from Drake University on Mother’s Day 2000 and completed my master of science in education, certified rehabilitation counseling degree from Drake University on May 16, 2009. Forty years almost to the day of being released from prison on May 22, 1969. I obtained my restoration of citizenship in 1974 and an executive pardon in 1982.

    I was the first woman in Iowa allowed to participate in the work release program. I was also a disability rights advocate and investigator for a federally funded agency where I investigated alleged neglect and abuse of women with a mental health diagnosis on the same violent ward where I had been interned four decades before.

    I received a scholarship to the 2010 National Institute of Justice Conference and an outstanding achievement award for over forty years of successful reentry accomplishments from a local organization on March 20, 2011.

    What I DO have a problem with is when you and others have tried to use the fact on other discussions to claim that I, as an excon, do not have a right to an opinion on this or any other subject. I am no longer a ‘con’ and therefore DO have a right to have an opinion, even when I do not agree with you.

    Also, I do not insist that you use politically correct language. I use the words that make sense to me, that is the reason I use ‘guard’ and ‘correctional officer’ interchangeably. They are the same to me. Please explain the difference between ‘guard’ and ‘correctional officer’. Do all correctional officers have a college degree or some other designation?

    Additionally, why do you attack Stephanie with a threat to just let all of the prisoners go and run wild when she simply cited a fact that you do not want to read? Is that the only alternative to ‘prison is not working’?

  15. PrisonPath July 20, 2015 at 6:09 pm #

    Bonnie, you and Lucianna do the same thing, you twist my words. I have always said you have a right to your opinion. WHAT I DID SAY, was that your opinions, for the most part is based on internet findings and not real world experience. You post time after time links to OTHER PEOPLES thoughts and findings and base your opinion on that. My opinion is based on real life experiences. Therefore, like I have said many times before, is that yes you are entitled to an opinion, but they hold little to no weight with the people who have actually lived it, and not just read it. The term “guard was thrown out years ago, after the attica riot. Correction Officers do so much more than “guard” prisoners> we act as certified police officers inside the walls, we act as medical personnel until a nurse or doctor arrives, we act as intelligence officers collecting data on gangs. We act as hostage negotiators, riot control, and psychologists. The term guard does represent all of those FACTS. As far as Stephanie, not that I have to answer to you, she feels prisons do not keep civilians safe. My comment was not a threat as you say… after all can you really let them all out? So that part of your comment is really mute. My point is that there are many, many, inmates locked away for very long periods of time, that if they were to be released, she and others WOULD NOT BE SAFE. Prisons absolutely protect people from harm, whether you, Stephanie, or anyone else thinks that.
    by Andrew

  16. PrisonPath July 20, 2015 at 6:11 pm #

    Bonnie–
    Andrew, as I have written before on many discussions with you, I have lived with the reality you describe. I have always agreed with you and others that there are individuals locked up that I hope never see daylight again because, not only were their crimes outside beyond understanding, their behavior on the inside continued to be terrifying. I was not excited about being locked up with some like them in the 1960s. Just like you, the ‘guards’ of those days, could leave after their shift was over and we were left to survive the best way we could. I understand, better than most, why you believe that isolation/solitary confinement/segregation is necessary for this population. However, after watching some individuals like them in the 1960s be given time-out to calm down and then come back into general population, I believe there is probably a more productive and more humane way of dealing with them than the documentary I watched on PBS last evening where a man was still being held in “solitary confinement” (the documentary used those words) for forty years and counting.

    The man was so broken, shell-shocked and used to fighting anyone who came close to him for thirty six years that when he was put directly in general population for a short period he was overwhelmed, acted out and returned to “isolation” (again, the PBS documentary’s words). There has to be some kind of de-escalation period and programming for this type of person because 47% are walking from isolation/solitary confinement/segregation to the streets, which makes Stephanie correct that “prisons do nothing to make us safe” from them:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/08/tom-clements-solitary-con_n_3564019.html

  17. PrisonPath July 20, 2015 at 6:11 pm #

    Andrew, as I have written before on many discussions with you, I have lived with the reality you describe. I have always agreed with you and others that there are individuals locked up that I hope never see daylight again because, not only were their crimes outside beyond understanding, their behavior on the inside continued to be terrifying. I was not excited about being locked up with some like them in the 1960s. Just like you, the ‘guards’ of those days, could leave after their shift was over and we were left to survive the best way we could. I understand, better than most, why you believe that isolation/solitary confinement/segregation is necessary for this population. However, after watching some individuals like them in the 1960s be given time-out to calm down and then come back into general population, I believe there is probably a more productive and more humane way of dealing with them than the documentary I watched on PBS last evening where a man was still being held in “solitary confinement” (the documentary used those words) for forty years and counting.

    The man was so broken, shell-shocked and used to fighting anyone who came close to him for thirty six years that when he was put directly in general population for a short period he was overwhelmed, acted out and returned to “isolation” (again, the PBS documentary’s words). There has to be some kind of de-escalation period and programming for this type of person because 47% are walking from isolation/solitary confinement/segregation to the streets, which makes Stephanie correct that “prisons do nothing to make us safe” from them:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/08/tom-clements-solitary-con_n_3564019.html

  18. PrisonPath July 20, 2015 at 6:12 pm #

    Andrew–
    And Bonnie, my comment was not so much that you referred to them as “guards”, but rather the fact that you assume all of them are calling them stupid and berating them. Show some respect to the professionals that do their job please.

  19. PrisonPath July 20, 2015 at 6:13 pm #

    I have written in many discussions with you that I commend all of you, who put your lives on the line every day, and am glad that you have chosen that way to make a living. I am more than aware, and have written about how hard it is on you and your families because your divorce and suicide rates are much higher than the general population. Prison does not only change the prisoners, it changes the prison staff too. Simply because I do not agree with you, and point out where some of your remarks (in my opinion) may be a bit off ‘plum’ because of your experiences – and statistics from some very learned people show it), does not mean that I do not respect those who are being professional.

    However, you and I both know that not everyone is acting in a professional manner all of the time behind those fences/walls. Those are the ones I am asking the rest of you, who are professionals, to do something about.
    By:Bonnie

  20. PrisonPath July 20, 2015 at 6:14 pm #

    …it is impossible to do anything about it.” Are you sure about that? Apparently both sides of the isle in DC do not think there is nothing they can do about prison reform, which will include getting rid of the people who are acting in an unprofessional manner. Apparently the states that are breaking the corrections and other state unions for not having people who are acting in a professional manner do not think so.

    Your unions will have to get the members together and get rid of the people like the ones in the prison in New York recently who apparently acted inappropriately, or kept their mouths shut about the ones who were acting inappropriately.
    By:Bonnie

  21. PrisonPath July 20, 2015 at 6:16 pm #

    Brian Pierce
    But will the be getting any insight from prisoners who have been there? Why not ask them? We avoid that but wouldn’t you normally ask patients about how the treatment worked? In this arena we assume they have no value so why ask.

  22. PrisonPath August 17, 2015 at 6:28 pm #

    Richard–
    Why just federal prison reform? What happened to state prison reform? President Obama is putting on a show. If he were serious there would be much more involvement from his office regarding reform on a state and federal level

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