President Obama took some time out of his busy schedule to interview HBO's "The Wire" creator David Simon. The conversation was meant to cover crime, law enforcement and the war on drugs still ongoing in America today. But there was also time for "The Wire" superfan Barack Obama to geek out about one of his favorite shows.
Simon, a former police officer and journalist who created the universally revered show about crime and law enforcement in Baltimore, is articulate and informative as he discusses why arrests for drug crimes have risen dramatically in the past decades even as arrests for all other forms of crime have been reduced.
"Nobody incarcerates their population at this level," Simon says. "When I came in as a police reporter, the prison population was about 35% violent offenders. When I left as a police reporter thirteen years later it was around 7%."
Increased prison sentences have resulted in criminals serving much longer stints in prison, and thus being far less prepared to return to life on the outside. The result is an entire population that is unemployable, unable to pick up a normal life, and hardened rather than rehabilitated from their time in prison.
The president extols the growing economy and falling unemployment levels, but does acknowledge that a significant segment of the population is unable to take advantage of what jobs might be available. People with past felonies being unable to find jobs is "counterproductive" according to the president.
Obama does go off about "The Wire" at several points in the interview, at one point mentioning that Omar was his favorite character. But the whole conversation is worth watching. It is a much-needed talk about the deep issues facing communities, criminals, law enforcement, and the role of prisons in society.