prison overcrowding

A bipartisan group of senators on the Judiciary Committee is preparing to unveil a criminal justice overhaul proposal as early as Thursday, two sources familiar with the deal told NPR.

The plan follows months of behind-the-scenes work by the staffs of Sen. Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican who is chairman of the committee, and several other lawmakers representing both political parties.

Kate Carlton Greer / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

Federal inmates who met with President Barack Obama at an Oklahoma prison during the filming of a documentary in July are hopeful the show will influence policymakers.

About 50 inmates gathered at the El Reno federal prison Wednesday to watch the premiere of "Fixing the System," a Vice on HBO special report. Obama spoke with six of the inmates during his visit.

"Fixing the System" will air on HBO on Sunday, September 27 at 9 p.m.

The Oklahoma Board of Corrections has voted to support a directive from Gov. Mary Fallin that could mean releasing some inmates convicted of violent crimes — including murder and rape.

Fallin wrote in July that the board was misinterpreting state law on crimes that require convicts serve 85 percent of their sentence.

Fallin said the law allows inmates to earn good behavior credits throughout their sentence. Inmates had not been awarded the credits until after serving the 85 percent — meaning they were not released until serving 90 percent or more of their sentences.

Advocates and inmates working to overhaul the criminal justice system will have to wait at least a little longer for congressional action.

The Republican leader of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles Grassley, said he won't hold a public event on sentencing reform proposals until after the August recess, as language is still being drafted by a bipartisan working group. And in the U.S. House, lawmakers and their aides will spend at least the next five weeks making adjustments to a sweeping bill sponsored by 40 Democrats and Republicans, sources told NPR Friday.

Kate Carlton Greer / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

President Obama became the first sitting president to visit a federal prison Thursday when he toured the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution outside Oklahoma City. During his trip, Obama urged reconsideration of the current criminal justice system.

President Obama walked down Cell Block B, taking in the two-story medium security prison, with a corrections officer and Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Charles Samuels. He peeked inside a tiny 90 square foot cell that holds up to three inmates, which he said highlights the need for prison reform.

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Now to someone who has gotten a second chance. Antwon Rogers is 44 years old. By the time President Obama granted him clemency this past March, Rogers had spent half his life in prison. His crime...

President Obama toured a federal prison in Oklahoma on Thursday and said the nation needs to reconsider policies that contribute to a huge spike in the number of people behind bars.

In an unprecedented visit by a sitting president, Obama met with half a dozen inmates at the El Reno prison, outside Oklahoma City. The trip was part of a weeklong push by the White House to focus attention on the president's call for criminal justice reform.

President Obama has made incarceration reform a White House theme this week. On Monday, he commuted the sentences of 46 mostly nonviolent drug offenders; and on Tuesday, he spoke about reducing the prison population in a speech to the NAACP.

"The United States is home to 5 percent of the world's population but 25 percent of the world's prisoners," Obama said. "Think about that. Our incarceration rate is four times higher than China's."

Obama Calls For Criminal Justice Reforms

Jul 15, 2015

In a speech Tuesday, President Obama called for fixing what he called the “broken system” of criminal justice, which he said sends too many non-violent drug offenders to prison for too long because of Reagan-era mandatory minimum sentencing.

On Monday, Obama commuted the sentences of 46 non-violent drug offenders. In a personal letter to each soon-to-be ex-prisoner, Obama warned them, “it will not be easy” for them once they get out. Thursday, he will become the first sitting U.S. president to visit a federal prison.

Updated at 1:11 p.m. ET

President Obama has commuted the sentences of 46 mostly nonviolent drug offenders, nearly all of whom, the White House says, would have already served their time if they were convicted of the same crime today.