In 2015, Barack Obama traveled to Oklahoma to meet with men incarcerated at El Reno prison—the first sitting president to actually walk into a federal prison. After meeting with men in the prison, he was struck by how much they have in common. He told reporters, “These are young people who made mistakes that aren’t that different than the mistakes I made.”
As President Obama prepares to leave office, the United States still holds the dubious honor of having the highest incarceration rate in the world, with 2.2 million people behind bars. In order to assess his impact on the criminal justice system, it’s necessary to examine the policy shifts that got us here in the first place.
Connecticut, Michigan, Mississippi, Rhode Island, and South Carolina have reduced their prison populations between 14-25% over the past decade. This report describes how these five states can serve as decarceration roadmaps for other states.
A coalition of civil rights, criminal justice reform, and human rights groups provided comments to the U.S. Sentencing Commission on ways to improve the fairness and proportionality of the Guidelines; promote individualized review of specific offense conduct; and mitigate excessively punitive provisions.