Obama Visits Federal Prison: ’There But For The Grace of God’

US President Barack Obama, alongside Charles Samuels (R), Bureau of Prisons Director, and Ronald Warlick (L), a correctional officer, looks at a prison cell as he tours a cell block at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015. Obama is the first sitting US …
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama toured a federal prison in Oklahoma today, visiting with six inmates and touring the facility.

Speaking to reporters after the event, Obama explained that even people like him could have ended up in prison.

“That’s what strikes me, there but for the grace of God,” he said. “And that is something that we all have to think about.”

(Photos via the Associated Press)

Obama told members of the press that even they could have been in prison for the mistakes they made in their past life.

“When they describe their youth, these are young people who made mistakes that aren’t that different from the mistakes I made, and the mistakes that a lot of you guys made,” he said. “The difference is that they did not have the kind of support structures, the second chances, the resources that would allow them to survive those mistakes.”

He added that it wasn’t “normal” for so many young people ending up in prison, pointing out that it didn’t happen in other countries.

“What is normal is teenagers doing stupid things. What is normal is young people who make mistakes,” he said.

Obama explained that it was important to send “dangerous individuals” to prison but that young people deserved a chance to improve their lives citing their “environment” as part of the reason for their failures.

“[I]f given different opportunities, a different vision of life, they could thrive,” he said optimistically.


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