- The Washington Times - Friday, September 18, 2015

Reflecting on his past drug use, President Obama said Friday that federal prison inmates he met recently “weren’t so different from me.”

“I made mistakes when I was young,” Mr. Obama said at a White House screening of a documentary on the criminal justice system. “I didn’t always follow a straight path. The primary difference between me and them was I had more of a cushion. I had second chances.”

As a teen in Hawaii, Mr. Obama smoked marijuana frequently. As president, he has been working to lessen the severity of prison sentences for many drug offenders.

“For too many individuals, particularly nonviolent offenders caught up in an environment in which drugs are pervasive and opportunity is lacking, the punishment does not fit the crime,” Mr. Obama said. “The effects of this mass incarceration ripple through families and communities, especially communities of color in ways that are not just a problem of the here and now, but continue across generations.”

He added, “As a society, we have to acknowledge that there is something wrong when we are locking up this many folks with this kind of frequency, concentrated in a handful of communities in cities and towns and counties across this country.”

Mr. Obama visited the El Reno federal penitentiary in Oklahoma in July, where he met inmates and recorded an interview for the VICE documentary that will air on HBO.

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