[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official profile], speaking at the NAACP Annual Convention [official website] on Tuesday, urged Congress to reform [press release] the criminal justice system by enacting legislation that would enforce criminal laws fairly and reduce disparities. Obama is also calling for sentencing reform, changes to the juvenile justice system, and a plan to reduce recidivism. Despite decreasing crime rates, the federal prison population has increased [AP report] from 24,000 in the 1980s to more than 214,000, costing over $80 billion a year.
Under the Obama Administration several important changes to the criminal justice system have taken place. In May, the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] pledged $20 million dollars to encourage the implementation of body-worn cameras in law enforcement agencies throughout the country. In April 2014, the DOJ announced a new clemency initiative [official statement] that would review and prioritize petitions from federal inmates seeking clemency if they meet certain criteria and Obama granted [JURIST report] commuted sentences to 46 drug offenders on Monday. Last December, the Obama administration announced [JURIST report] the coming of new rules intended to decrease racial profiling. In 2013 President Obama commuted [JURIST report] the sentences of eight drug offenders, and in doing so, urged Congress to consider passing legislation which would make the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 [text, pdf] retroactive for some offenders.