President Obama will highlight his efforts to reform the nation’s criminal justice system with the first visit by a sitting U.S. president to a federal prison, the El Reno prison outside of Oklahoma City.
Obama will meet at the prison next Thursday with law enforcement officials and inmates and conduct an interview with VICE for a documentary that will air in the fall, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.
The trip comes as Obama is expected to issue orders freeing dozens of federal prisoners locked up on nonviolent drug offenses. 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 nearly half a century.”
He’ll start the effort at the 106th NAACP annual convention in Philadelphia, Earnest said, in a speech that will “outline the unfairness in much of our criminal justice system, highlight bipartisan ideas for reform and lay out his ideas to make our country fairer, smarter and more cost effective while keeping the American people safe and secure.”
As part of the VICE documentary on HBO, Obama and VICE founder Shane Smith, will tour the facility and meet with prisoners, prison staff, and law enforcement officials.
El Reno is a medium-security facility that houses 1,300 inmates and was home to Jason Hernandez, a prisoner convicted on drug charges who had his life sentence commuted by Obama in 2013.
Obama has said that criminal justice reform will be a priority during the remainder of his time in office.
"I am really interested in the possibilities, the prospect of bipartisan legislation around the criminal justice system," he said at a press conference last month, adding, “we've seen some really interesting leadership from some unlikely Republican legislators very sincerely concerned about making progress there."