On Friday, VICE and HBO released a trailer for Fixing the System, an upcoming special on criminal justice in the US that will air on September 27.
The special offers a panoramic perspective on crime and punishment, and will follow all of the key elements in America's sprawling justice system, including prisoners and their families, members of the judiciary, and community reformers.
It will be hosted by VICE founder and correspondent Shane Smith, and will also feature President Barack Obama's historic tour of the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in Oklahoma in July, where he met with inmates and prison officials.
"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," Smith said, explaining the significance of the documentary.
In filming the special, Obama became the first sitting president to visit a federal prison, signaling that criminal justice reform is a top priority in the final stretch of his administration. He met with six inmates at the medium-security prison for male offenders. The men's stories and the mistakes they made were not dissimilar to those the president made in his own youth, he said. Obama has written of using pot and cocaine while in high school and college.
America needs to distinguish between violent criminals and people "doing stupid things," Obama said, adding that many young people who end up in prison for nonviolent drug crimes grew up in environments where drug use is prevalent. Giving those people decades-long sentences is what is contributing to the country's overcrowded prison system, and more resources should be directed to education, support, and rehabilitation, he said.
"I am really interested in the possibilities, the prospect of bipartisan legislation around the criminal justice system," the president told reporters on June 30. "And we've seen some really interesting leadership from some unlikely Republican legislators very sincerely concerned about making progress there."
The special is the latest in VICE's ongoing coverage of what has become a major civil rights and reform issue in the United States.