President Barack Obama once famously said that The Wire is his favorite show on television. He is actually just one of millions who feel that way about David Simon's critically acclaimed creation.
The HBO crime drama's ultra-realistic portrayal of Baltimore's drug war owes everything to the 12 years Simon spent as the Baltimore Sun's crime reporter. Hence, if there was ever a man of knowledge about the war on the streets, the police's strategies and the justice system, it's Simon.
At the Bipartisan Summit for Criminal Justice Reform, the president sat down for a quick chat with The Wire mastermind.
Furthering Simon's point of view that "what drugs don't destroy, the war against them is ripping apart," Obama agreed that the existing system is doing little to sort things out on the streets despite increased financial commitments by his government.
"The challenge," he said, "is folks go into prison at great expense to the state, [and] many times [are] trained to become more hardened criminals while in prison, come out and are basically unemployable and end up looping back in" to the life of crime.
"When you break down why people aren't getting back into the labor force, even as jobs are being created, a big chunk of that is the young male population with felony histories," he added. "So now where we have the opportunity to give them a pathway toward a responsible life, they're foreclosed. And that's counterproductive."
While Obama, through his administration and policies, is doing his part to tackle the drug wars without excessive use of force or lengthy incarcerations, something else mars his efforts. Like most people, newbie legislators' first remedy to curb crime is heavy-handed policing and lengthy prison terms. But as statistics as well as research show this approach doesn't work. If anything, it makes matters worse.
If that doesn't convince you that the prevalent justice system ruins rather than repairs, then perhaps watching The Wire would. As the story progresses, most criminals on the show who've been to the prison either end up dead or deadlier than before. Rehabilitation? Not a chance.