Last week, President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to visit a federal prison, and now he’s calling for changes to be made in the U.S. prison system.


During Obama’s tour of Oklahoma’s El Reno Correctional Institution, he took the time to sit down and speak with six inmates. After listening to what they had to say, he told reporters that he easily could have ended up in the same position as these inmates since he too had a history of drug use.


President Obama sits with six prison inmates

Last week, President Obama became the first sitting president to visit a prison. (

“These are young people who made mistakes that aren’t that different than the mistakes I made and the mistakes that a lot of you guys made,” said Obama to reporters.


Obama plans on making the reformation of the criminal justice system one of his top priorities during his remaining time in office. There are many problems with the prison system that he believes need to be fixed.


The prison population has quadrupled in the United States since 1980, and this was shown during Obama’s tour. The president looked at a 9 foot by 10 foot cell that houses up to three inmates, even though it’s not meant to hold that many people.


Mass incarceration makes our country worse off and we need to do something about it,” said Obama.


He also noted that there is a lack of social support structures and education opportunities for inmates. Former President Bill Clinton took some of the responsibility for the overpopulation and absence of education opportunities in many U.S. prisons.


“We wound up…putting so many people in prison that there wasn’t enough money left to educate them, train them for new jobs, and increase the chances when they came out so they could live productive lives,” said Clinton to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.


It’s easy to dismiss people that you think of as hardened criminals, but all inmates have rights that should be upheld. Now that Obama has seen the prison conditions for himself, he understands the problems that inmates face.


What are your thoughts on reforming the criminal justice system? What changes would you like to be made? Leave a comment or talk to me on Twitter @Karbowski_Devon.