The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

President Obama loves ‘The Wire.’ He also thinks it can help solve our criminal justice problems.

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The answers to solving our nation's problems with crime, prison over-crowding and criminal justice have been with us all along, and they were all contained in "The Wire."

President Obama, a fan of the much-more-popular-after-it-ended HBO show, said he sees it playing a role in changing criminal justice policy in the U.S. He sat down with "Wire" creator David Simon for an interview the White House published on Medium. Calling the show "one of the greatest -- not just television shows, but pieces of art in the last couple of decades,"  Obama said it, "made you start thinking about the culture of the drug trade and its impact on the inner cities." He added that the show humanized "what so often on the local news is just a bunch of shadowy characters, and tell their stories," an important step to solving criminal justice problems.

Simon said when he lived in Baltimore in the early 1980s, police "thought they could arrest their way out of the drug problem" and drug-related arrests went up while other arrests went down.

These arrests didn't happen in a vacuum,  Simon added, noting that there's a generation of children who grew up without a father at home, and that the unemployment rates among young black men are higher than the national average. "[Those arrested] come back out completely tarred," he said. "They can't vote. They can't participate in their community. They've lost track of family."

Obama's administration has pointed to television as a force for humanizing and shifting public opinion before. In 2012, Vice President Biden voiced his support for same-sex marriage and said, "I think 'Will & Grace' probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody's ever done so far." Since "Will & Grace" ended in 2006, support for same-sex marriage has risen from 42 percent to 55 percent in May.

Obama can only hope television is half as effective at changing opinion on crime as Biden said it was for LGBT issues.