President Obama recently became the first president to visit a federal prison while in office. Wisconsin Public Radio host, Joy Cardin, held an interview with Ohio State University law professor, Douglas Berman, to talk about the significance of the president’s visit. During the interview, Berman touched on many of the same issues as Bryan Stevenson in Just Mercy. In particular he spoke about inequality in our criminal justice system, what incarceration rates are like in Wisconsin, and why criminal justice reform matters to both Republicans and Democrats.
This is the third in a series of blog posts about issues brought up in the interview.
Part 3: Obama Commutes Sentences for 46 People in Prison for Drug Offenses
As part of this WPR story, Cardin mentioned that Monday July 13th, President Obama announced that he was going to commute the sentences for 46 Americans in prison for drug offenses. A Wisconsin man was one of those chosen to have his sentence commuted. Obama noted that punishments for these individuals did not fit their crimes. For nonviolent drug offenses, many were sentenced to at least 20 years in prison, and 14 were sentenced to life in prison.
President Obama framed this act in terms of second chances by saying: “I believe that at its heart, America is a nation of second chances.” He expressed a similar sentiment in his letters to those whose sentences had been commuted by saying: “I believe in your ability to prove the doubters wrong, and change your life for the better. So good luck, and godspeed.”
Watch the video of Obama’s announcement below.
To read a New York Times article about this announcement click here.
To listen to the WPR interview click here.
To read Douglas Berman’s Sentencing and Policy blog click here.