Monday, July 13, 2015

Obama Trip to BOP Prison Is A Big Deal

Obama Prison Visit A Reason For Optimism


By Derek Gilna


            For those facing long, or perhaps life sentences, it is often hard to develop or maintain a positive mental attitude about anything.  Negativity and hopelessness can easily creep into your psyche when proposed sentencing reforms do not address your particular offense. However, for even the most hopeless prisoners, the President’s scheduled visit to El Reno Prison, in Oklahoma, this week should be cause for optimism.

            Finally, the President has begun to address issues of concern to his core political constituency, mass incarceration.  Although the American criminal justice system is clearly racist, as pointed out by former Attorney General Eric Holder, its injustices are not limited just to people of color but to economically disadvantaged or abused individuals of all races..

 This dysfunctional system can only exist as long as American society is ignorant of its existence and impact on their daily lives, and realizes that this problem can no longer be ignored. Visits like this one will only draw needed attention from members of the general public and the mass media. The buzz is growing.

I’m sure the BOP is NOT looking forward to this visit, even though you know they will clean up that prison (and put palatable food in the chow hall for at least one day) and do their best to keep the President and his handlers from seeing how prisoners really live.  Nobody in the far-flung, poorly supervised BOP likes to see their boss come to town, especially not the big boss.

That’s because institutions like the BOP are not used to doing business in daylight, and do their best to hide behind “correctional necessity” in avoiding publicity.  (Only recently, PLN won a major lawsuit compelling the BOP to answer FOIA requests for prisoner lawsuit data doing back TEN YEARS.)

Most importantly to the incarcerated, both House and Senate Justice Subcommittees have promised prompt hearings on pending legislation for prisoner relief, and my prediction is that the news out of Washington will only get better because of the political momentum beginning to build.  And once that train of prisoner relief builds up some speed and the public learns the ugly truth about what has been hidden from their view for so long, the American criminal justice system will never be the same again.  Let me know when you are ready to punch your ticket.


Derek Gilna, 113 McHenry #173, Buffalo Grove, IL.