U.S. President Barack Obama is planning to unveil several new measures next week aimed at reforming the harsh sentencing laws that have boosted the country's prison population, he revealed Saturdy during his weekly radio address.
Obama said the White House would also issue a new report "that details the economic costs of our high rates of incarceration," and said he will call "on businesses to commit to hiring returning citizens who have earned a second chance.”
Obama pointed out that the U.S. has the largest prison population in the world, with more than 2.2 million inmates, in part due to the county’s “underfunded schools” and “unfair sentencing laws.”
Obama is hoping to keep the pressure on Congress to produce legislation that would amend harsh federal laws adopted during the U.S. crack epidemic of the 1980s and 90s.
Support is growing in Congress to follow the lead of more then 30 states that have modified some of their mandatory sentencing laws, at least for minor, non-violent offenses.
“Good people from both sides of the aisle and across all sectors are coming together on this issue,” Obama said.
The president detailed the social and economic costs of the nation’s overcrowded prisons, noting that the inmate population is the product of many people serving “unnecessarily long sentences” for non-violent crimes such as drug use.
Currently, the U.S. observes the national "three-strikes-and-you're-out" law, which requires life sentences for people convicted of a violent felony after two or more previous convictions, including drug crimes.
Today, nearly half of all federal inmates are in prison for drug-related offenses.
The announcement comes just as the Justice Department commemorates "National Reentry Week" from April 24-30.