Sunday, January 08, 2017
BARELY TWO WEEKS remaining before he’s due to leave office, President Barack Obama, J.D. ’91, has written an emotional plea for criminal-justice reform in the January 2017 edition of the Harvard Law Review, arguing for the role of the presidency in reducing mass incarceration. Obama was president of the Law Review in 1990-91, as a third year at Harvard Law School.
“Those privileged to serve as President and in senior roles in the executive branch have an obligation to use that influence to enhance the fairness and effectiveness of the justice system at all phases,” he writes in the article’s introduction. “How we treat citizens who make mistakes (even serious mistakes), pay their debt to society, and deserve a second chance reflects who we are as a people and reveals a lot about our character and commitment to our founding principles.”
Criminal-justice reform, for Obama, has been a matter not only of political but also of deep personal concern. “As a community organizer, I saw firsthand how our criminal justice system exacerbates inequality. It takes young people whose mistakes were no worse than my own and traps them in an endless cycle of marginalization and punishment,” he continues. “More than twenty years ago, I wrote about my experience in neighborhoods where ‘prison records had been passed down from father to son for more than a generation.’”
President Obama Urges Criminal-Justice Reform in Harvard Law Review | Harvard Magazine