President Obama made the first-ever Presidential visit to a federal prison for last night’s “VICE” special that took on America’s broken criminal justice system, offering an in-depth look into the dire impact the current criminal justice system is having on millions of Americans – especially black Americans. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the term “prison industrial complex,” which also happens to be the title of a recorded 1997 speech by Angela Davis, later released as an audio CD that served as the basis for her book of the same title.
America is home to 5 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s prison population – a prison population that has risen 700 percent since 1970, according to Vice/HBO.
In the documentary special, President Obama visited the El Reno federal prison in Oklahoma and participated in the special, making him the very first sitting president ever to visit a federal prison.
Obama and VICE founder Shane Smith, host of the special, toured the facility and met with prisoners, prison staff, and law enforcement officials.
The interviews were all part of a broader HBO documentary looking at the pervasive impacts of America’s approach to crime and imprisonment, chronicling the many interlocking pieces of the sprawling system, from prisoners and their families to the judiciary and community reformers.
The special was the latest in VICE’s ongoing coverage of what’s becoming a major civil rights and reform agenda in the United States.
Titled “Fixing The System,” the special aired last night on HBO a month ago (for those without HBO the full hour-long special is embedded, followed by Angela Davis’ full “prison industrial complex” presentation to supplement, especially since the VICE special made no reference to it).
But first, VICE returned to the El Reno correctional facility to screen the documentary report for the inmates who are depicted in the program, and created a supplement video on that trip, and what’s since happened since the HBO broadcast in September. Watch the 10-minute “Extra” below:
Here is the full hour-long documentary special:
And here’s Angela Davis’ “Prison Industrial Complex” presentation: