Barack Obama visit federal prison


More shocking than the sudden news that upwards of 6,000 federal prisoners have been granted early release by the U.S. Sentencing Committee Program, is the fact that it was accomplished with the blessing of both the Obama Administration and Koch Industries!!!

David and Charles Koch (pronounced "Coke") are the fabulously wealthy scions of a family that controls a mighty network of diverse and very successful American industries. The shocking part of the sentence that includes, "Obama." "Koch" and "cooperation," is the fact that the Koch Brothers are longtime supporters of political right-wing causes, factions, institutions and politicians. That support was particularly heightened just before and after Obama became president. In left-wing circles, the Koch Brothers' reputation is that of spawns of Satan, dedicated to the destruction of Liberals/Progressives and the Democratic Party. The fact that these two gelt-weighted leaders of the "One-percenters" and the pitifully put-upon and "BHOo-hooed," eventually would find themselves harmonizing from the same hymnal, was just too preposterous for a proper Presbyterian. But, there she was, Valerie Jarrett, perennial Obama insider, having regular discussions with representatives of Koch Industries on this matter. "Will wonders never cease?!"



koch brothers



Ironically, as Obama readily admits, the "Kocksters" were there first. Barack is a relatively "Johnny-come-lately" to the longtime push of the Koch Brothers (no surprise) to reduce the cost of our international shame in warehousing humans. They provide the basic frame for the Obama push to ease draconian sentences for relatively minor drug offenses. Obama also glommed onto their proposals to reduce the dehumanization of ex-offenders with regard to employment and re-integration into society.

Obama was the first sitting-president to set foot in a federal prison. Much like the visiting Pope, who also took his ministry directly to the incarcerated, Obama engaged with prisoners in a personal way. He exhorted them to seek post-prison positivity, while assuring them that he would do his utmost to oil the skids for them in that regard. He is pushing to place incarceration questions at the bottom of employment application forms. The president is also quite keen to eradicate voting restrictions on ex-offenders. His philosophy on re-integration and enfranchisement is based on the logic of reducing the seeds of recidivism.

The more than 6,000 sentence reductions authorized by the commission does not mean that all of these people will be let out at the same time. Their sentence reductions are based upon a specific set of criteria. Sentences stemming from offenses outside of those guidelines will have to be settled prior to release. Approximately 2,000 of the releasees are foreign nationals, whose ultimate disposition will depend upon their immigrant status. It is notable that these early releases pertain only to federal prisoners. It is presumed that many states will follow suit.

As it is with most institutional problems in the U.S., the nexus is historical. Undergirding the entirety of U.S. history, while forever exalting its positive aspects, we continue to deny and kick dirt over the most salient of the negative – deep-rooted racism. While kicking and screaming against it, in this 21st century, finally we have reached a modicum of success in truly representing our stated goals. However, the headlines of this past year tell us we ain't quite there yet.

So it is with the criminal justice system. African Americans and Latinos represent 30% of the population. When it comes to prisons, that number jumps up to 60%. The current trend dates back to Nixon. That was the beginning of the, "Southern Strategy" and the pole-shifting of the Republican and Democratic Parties. Republicans found it very convenient to use crime and race to lure southern Whites away from the donkey and onto the elephant's back. Reagan found that strategy very effective, and improved upon it. Old Lib Clinton, caught in a political vise, was forced to go along with a Republican congress and complete the conversion of our prison system into a racially segregated, fifth estate of our society. The conversion to the solid Republican South was completed in these last elections.

Under these circumstances, it is indeed encouraging to see that factions as diverse as the Koch Brothers and Obama are able to sit at the same table and break bread together. Would that newly elected House Speaker Paul Ryan were able to lead his cohorts to that same table. With the Senate there, that really would be a feast to behold. Reversing this senseless, expensive trend within the criminal system should be a national priority of the first order.

***** ***** *****

The old circuit judge came to town.

He made them release farmer Brown.

"The hogs must be fed,

"The cows milked," he said –

"Vittles don't come just from the ground!"



Curtis W. Long

Curtis W. Long

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