Former Political Allies Kilpatrick, Obama Could Reunite Inside Oklahoma Prison
By Gus Burns
at Michigan Live Media Group
In 2007, on his way to the White House, then-Sen. Barack Obama stood next to former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick during a campaign speech at the Detroit Economic Club.
“We know that he is going to be doing astounding things for many years to come … “ Obama said nearly eight years ago. That was before Kilpatrick’s troubles, before the text-message scandal, the resignation, obstruction of justice convictions, federal indictments and the sentence that landed Kilpatrick in an Oklahoma prison where he’s serving a 28-year sentence scheduled for release in 2037.
It seemed unlikely the two men would cross paths ever again, until it was announced that the president will be visiting Kilpatirck’s prison, El Reno Federal Corrections Institution in Oklahoma to film an interview about reforming America’s criminal justice system.
Obama on Monday, July 13 granted clemency to 46 inmates with nonviolent, mostly drug-related convictions, and on Tuesday, July 14 spoke at the NAACP National Convention in Philadelphia, calling for the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences and better prison education and training programs.
According to VICE News, Obama’s interview included a tour of the 1,300-inmate, medium-security prison, where Obama met with both staff and inmates — possibly even Kilpatrick.
VICE News noted in its initial announcement of the presidential visit that Obama commuted the sentence of former El Reno inmate Jason Hernandez, serving life for a drug conviction, in 2013.
“There’s an emerging consensus in this country — on both the right and the left — that the way we treat criminal offenders is utterly broken and weakening our society in profound ways,” VICE News founder Shane Smith said in his publication’s announcement. “Visiting El Reno with President Obama — the first-ever visit to a federal prison by a sitting president — will give our viewers a firsthand look into how the president is thinking about this problem, from the policy level down to one on one conversations with the men and women living this reality. It’s going to be fascinating.”
Ross Jones of WXYZ-TV, Channel 7 News reported in April that Kilpatrick’s relatives were seeking a presidential pardon from Obama for Kilpatrick and his convicted co-defendant, ex-city contractor Bobby Ferguson, both of whom were convicted of racketeering and extortion in March of 2013.
Ferguson, 46, is currently housed at a federal prison in Williamsburg, S.C., a medium security prison with over 1,700 inmates, serving a 21-year sentence for his role in City Hall corruption. Ferguson is slated for release in June of 2031.