As a country in economic turmoil waited with baited breath to hear President Obama’s State of the Union Address, the 2.4 million people that are incarcerated across the country in jails and prisons went about business as usual. The anticipation of hearing the well publicized problems plaguing the nation such as soaring gas prices, unemployment, the attempt to repeal health care, our constant interest in renewable energy and even the plans of addressing illegal immigration this year was expected. The repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the innovative drilling technique to rescue the Chilean miners was very well applauded, as expected.
President Obama neglected to address the not so highly publicized committee meetings with his appointed Attorney General Eric Holder, and plans for solutions to help re-integrate ex-offenders back into society. While as unintentional as it may have been for the President’s comments regarding Michael Vick and his deserving of a second chance, he could have taken a direct approach to address the issue of mass incarceration, the lack of opportunities for people returning to society in order to become productive citizens, the effects that this is having on the rate of recidivism and his plans to implement change.
Within the last five years this country has seen numerous cases overturned by DNA evidence as well as prosecutorial misconduct. Texas has a high rate of cases overturned and the Attorney General has yet to start an investigation as to why so many cases are being overturned from the same state and also several in one particular county. Texas judges are also known to hand out lengthy sentences, at their discretion, for crimes in other states that would receive about a third as much time or less.
The highly profiled case of The Scott Sisters, Jamie & Gladys, out of Mississippi, is just one in a history of criminal justice corruption. Their recent release, granted conditionally by Governor Haley Barbour, put the spotlight on the state with hopes that the federal government will step in with an investigation to clear allegations of collusion and corruption.
In 2010, the United States witnessed action film star Wesley Snipes got sentenced to prison after being convicted of misdemeanors in a federal case of tax evasion. Snipes and his attorney have called for a federal investigation of the prosecutor and other parties involved. President Obama should implement policies to insure that justice is equal across the board and across the country.
Millions of Americans are affected by the inconsistencies of the criminal justice system from police treatment and profiling to unfair trials and sentencing to an overwhelming need for prison reform. These issues affect Caucasian-Americans, Latino- Americans and African-Americans. The recent State of Georgia Prison strike and lockdown, the largest strike and lockdown in the history of the United States, and the investigated beatings of three African-American inmates by guards subsequently, is compelling evidence that this issue plagues the African American communities deeply.
President Obama should have addressed the millions of family members, activists, organizations and attorneys who fight for those on a daily basis who are dealt with unjustly by the system or have been wrongly incarcerated. President Obama should have given a call to action to Congress to create legislature for effective investigations into federal and state court systems regarding unfair and inconsistent treatment. President Obama neglected to address this often forgotten part of America.