By Kristen Johnson
Although I have not always agreed with President Obama’s policies or decisions, I am still proud that I cast my vote for him (twice) and I think he has done a really good job in spite of Republican obstacles every step of the way. Most of all, I am proud of his willingness to discuss and work on prison reform.
Most politicians cite things like “let’s be tough on crime” and we need to continue the “war on drugs” and so forth, without any notice of the rampant corruption in today’s for-profit prisons, or the blatant racism and classism represented in sentencing. But, President Obama is willing to do the work and put the truth out there.
Last Friday, President Obama announced 72 more commutations for federal prisoners, for a total of 944 commutations during his Presidency (more than any other President in US history!) His administration is focusing on criminal justice reform, because prisons are overcrowded – mostly with minorities who were subjected to mandatory sentencing laws. Most of the recent commutations were for prisoners serving time for drug-related offenses. (CS Monitor).
Obama has stated that “over-incarceration” is contrary to American values. (I don’t think he’s correct on that – I think that it should be contrary to our values, but far too many Americans want retribution instead of mercy.) And, the Justice Department recently announced that it will stop using private prisons. They are also working on new re-entry initiatives. (CS Monitor).
Unfortunately, though these steps are certainly steps in the right direction – massive reform is clearly needed. However, the fact that President Obama is willing to discuss the issue, is willing to issue such a large number of commutations, and seems genuinely desirous of reforming a broken system is certainly a good sign.
President Obama – I will miss you. Thank you for looking into your heart and providing an excellent example of showing grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Thank you for refusing to give in to a large group of people who insist that we live forever in fear and that we look instead to ways to help each other. Thank you being an example of how to show love and generosity.
Matthew 6:14-15 (NRSV): 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 15 but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Serve all with love.
Photo courtesy of: gratisography.com