Early this morning, President Obama announced that an important, historic, long-term agreement had been reached with Iran by US negotiators and those of six other countries, which will limit Iranian nuclear capabilities. This agreement will prevent Iran from further developing nuclear technology for military uses and allows for verification by the signatory nations.
Congress now has 60 days to explore the agreement and vote on it. The President said he welcomes “vigorous debate” on the issues surrounding this important agreement — not least the philosophical one, about deploying a diplomatic solution, not a military one, to stabilize the Middle East and make the world a safer place.
As if that wasn’t enough of an achievement for one day, President Obama today also unleashed a major initiative on criminal justice reform. He decried the way we imprison nonviolent offenders for outsize prison terms and outlined the huge costs associated with these practices. His proposal was met with immediate bi-partisan enthusiasm on the Hill — progressives warmed to the social-justice aspects of the initiative while conservatives liked the enormous cost savings it could mean.
In a Twitter onslaught after the speech, @Potus (the President’s personal Twitter account) summed up the key bullet points in favor of his proposal to overhaul our criminal justice system:
America is home to 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s prisoners.
America keeps more people behind bars than the top 35 European countries combined.
In 1980, there wer 500,000 people in American jails. Today, there are 2.2 million. Many belong. But too many are nonviolent offenders.
The $80 billion we spend each year to keep people incarcerated could pay for universal pre-K for every 3-year-old and 4-year-old in America.
The $80 billion we spend each year on incarcerations could double the salary of every high school teacher in America.
We could eliminate tuition at every public college and university in American with the $80 billion we spend each year on incarcerations.
Mass incarceration does not work. Let’s build communities that give kids a shot at success and prisons that prepare people for a second chance.
Stay tuned for more great progress from the Obama Administration. Sixteen more months to go.