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Obama calls for reform of ‘unfair’ US criminal justice system

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama on Saturday called for a meaningful reform of the criminal justice system in the US which “remains unfair” while citing that there are currently 2.2 million people behind bars in America compared to the 500,000 thirty years ago.

“Thirty years ago, there were 500,000 people behind bars in America. Today, there are 2.2 million. The United States is home to 5 per cent of the world’s population, but 25 per cent of the world’s prisoners. Every year, we spend $ 80 billion to keep people locked up,” Obama said in his weekly web and radio address to the nation.

Comparatively, India’s annual defence budget is $ 40 billion. In India, 3.3 lakh people are in jail.

According to compiled figures, half of the world’s prison population of about nine million is held in the US, China or Russia.

Prison rates in the US are the world’s highest, at 724 people per 100,000.

In Russia the rate is 581 and that of India is just 30.

In his address, Obama said over the last few decades, the US has locked up more non-violent offenders than ever before, for longer than ever before.

“That’s the real reason our prison population is so high,” he said.

“In too many cases, our criminal justice system is a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails,” he said.

“Much of our criminal justice system remains unfair. In recent years, more of our eyes have been opened to this truth. We can’t close them anymore. And good people, of all political persuasions, are eager to do something about it,” he said.

Over the next few weeks, Obama said he will travel the country to highlight some of the Americans who are doing their part to fix the criminal justice system.

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