"[Improving race relations] is not going to be a one day fix because it’s 2,000 something years of pain… so I think the step that he’s taking is the right step and I’m looking forward to seeing the outcome," said Teresa Hardy, Vice President for the Georgia branch of the oldest US civil rights group.
On Tuesday, Obama called for an overhaul of criminal and juvenile justice systems, including elimination or reduction the mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent crimes. He urged US states to do away with laws that prevented convicted felons from voting and suggested more job training programs for those in prison.
"I thought the whole speech was spot on, I thought he was on target and I’m happy to see now that there are other people who are involved in other parts of [the] political spectrum… who also recognize there’s a need for us to reform our criminal justice system," member of the NAACP’s New York branch Jim Norfleet said.
The president asked the US Congress to pass a sentencing reform bill by the end of the year, as, by doing so, they would be making an investment in "alternatives" to prison.
Seventeen-year-old William Green from the NAACP’s Tennessee branch told Sputnik that Obama’s plans, if implemented, would help not only his future, but also those of others.
"I really think that he is going to try to make a change to everything that’s happening right now for everyone else to benefit in the long run," Green said.
On Thursday, Obama will become the first sitting US president to visit a federal prison with a visit to the outside of Oklahoma City.
Over the past year, Obama has launched several policy initiatives in the wake of renewed calls for increased education to counter racial bias. The initiatives include investing in police body-worn cameras for US law enforcement agencies around the country and a plan for addressing segregation in US neighborhoods.