WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — US President Barack Obama has become the country’s first sitting president to visit a federal prison, when he toured the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution on Thursday, highlighting the need to re-examine US criminal justice system.
“I think we have a tendency sometimes to almost take for granted or think it is normal that so many people end up in our [US] criminal justice system, it is not normal and it is not what happens in other countries,” Obama said on Thursday on the prison grounds in the US state of Oklahoma.
The US president admitted that America accounts for 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, and that keeping inmates in the country’s prison facilities is costing US taxpayers some $80 billion.
“We have got to be able to distinguish between dangerous individuals who need to be incapacitated and incarcerated, versus young people who are in an environment in which they are adapting but if different opportunities, a different vision, a life, could be thriving the way we are,” Obama said.
On Tuesday, Obama outlined his vision for overhauling the US criminal justice system and called on Congress to pass a sentencing reform bill by the end 2015.
There are currently some 2.2 million people in US jails and another 4.5 million on probation or parole. The United States has the largest prison population in the world, and about half of all inmates are in jail on non-violent drug-related offences, according to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics.