It is “the first visit by a sitting USA president to a federal prison”, said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. The New York Times says that “with the stroke of his pen, (Obama) will probably commute more sentences at one time than any president has in almost half a century”.
The president highlighted criminal justice reform as a priority in his State of the Union speech in January, connecting it to high-profile clashes between local law enforcement and minority communities.
This will be President Obama’s third trip to Oklahoma.
VICE announced the special will air this fall on HBO, offering an “in-depth look into the dire impact the current criminal justice system is having on millions of Americans”.
Before visiting the prison, Obama will deliver an address on criminal justice reform to the 106th annual NAACP national convention in Philadelphia on Tuesday. He’ll also give an interview to the media organization Vice for a documentary.
“There’s an emerging consensus in this country – on both the right and the left – that the way we treat criminal offenders is utterly broken and weakening our society in profound ways”, Smith said in a statement.
According to White House Spokesperson Keith Maley, the President will remain overnight in Oklahoma. El Reno is a medium security prison facility located in central Oklahoma, which houses 1,300 inmates convicted of violating federal law. “I certainly wouldn’t rule out the possibility that he would use that kind of authority in the future”.