The U.S. locks up more of its citizens than any nation in the world, and far too many of them are African American and Hispanic men imprisoned for non-violent drug crimes. The sad state of the criminal-justice system has become, over the last decade, a crisis lamented with nearly equal measure of sorrow by Democrats and Republicans alike. To hear the politicians tell it, mass incarceration is both a financial drain on the government at all levels, and a moral stain that consigns families and entire communities to a cycle of poverty. Yet despite no shortage of proposals for reform in recent years, Congress has done virtually nothing.
That may, finally, be about to change, as an emboldened President Obama eyes what might be the last major addition to his domestic legacy in the White House.