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Becoming the first sitting president to meet with inmates, President Obama plans to spark a reform

President Obama and Shane smith meet inmates for Vice on HBO's special "Fixing the System"

President Obama and Shane Smith meet inmates for Vice on HBO’s special “Fixing the System”

HBO teams up with Vice to document America’s mass incarceration issue in “Fixing the System,” which features President Obama’s historic meeting with inmates from El Reno Federal Correction Institution in Oklahoma.

According to Prison Policy Initiative, over 1.5 million people are locked away in prison. Of those 1.5 million prisoners, a little more than half are locked up because of nonviolent drug offenses according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (see Huffington Post article for more information). Many of these drug sentences involve life without parole. It is no wonder why the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world and holds an estimated 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.

Drugs are everywhere in the US, but only poverty stricken areas are taking the brunt of this issue. Many low income family members resort to selling drugs to feed their families. Kids see their parents or siblings getting locked up and figure it is only normal. When these prisoners get released from their painfully harsh sentence, they cannot find jobs because their resume screams “FELON!” So, they turn to selling drugs. It is an endless cycle that must be broken in order to repair the nation’s growing  imprisonment problem.

In this very personal meeting, President Obama hears the prisoners’ stories. He is able to connect with them by opening up and admitting that drugs were apart of his life as teenager as well. However, he grew up in a more privileged neighborhood where getting caught wasn’t a big risk.

“I did a lot of stupid stuff when I was young, but I’ve said this before — I was just in an environment where you could afford to make some mistakes,” President Obama said in “Fixing the System.”

It is extremely hard to propose lessening a punishment on crime, but President Obama is not the only politician seeking change. Many major political figures from both parties do as well. It will be interesting to see if any reforms are suggested in this upcoming election.

Watch HBO’s “Fixing the System” to learn more. Click the here to watch the trailer.

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