"How is it Scooter Libby isn't behind bars and we've got a young man in jail right now sentenced to 10 years for something that isn't even a felony?" Mr. Obama said during a speech at an awards banquet for the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the civil rights organization founded by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who was a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, was sentenced to 2 years in prison for obstructing justice in a federal probe of the leak of a CIA officer's name. President Bush commuted Mr. Libby's sentence, calling it excessive.
Mr. Obama called for justice for 21-year-old Genarlow Wilson, who remains in jail even though a judge overturned his sentence. Mr. Wilson was convicted of aggravated child molestation after he was shown on videotape having oral sex with a 15-year-old girl. He was 17 at the time.
The judge called the sentence a "grave miscarriage of justice," but Mr. Wilson is still in jail waiting for the state Supreme Court to hear the appeal of his case.
The long punishment has prompted angry protests and led the state last year to change the 1995 sentencing law used in his case. The new law makes it a misdemeanor rather than a felony for teens close in age to have oral sex, but the Supreme Court ruled the change could not be applied retroactively.
Mr. Obama, a Democratic senator from Illinois, spoke during the SCLC's First Ladies Awards honoring Coretta Scott King, the late wife of the slain civil rights leader. He heralded the work of women during the civil rights movement.
"The men are good at getting up front and being in front of the microphone, but, as my wife reminds me, it was the women who did all the work," he told the packed ballroom.
He told the audience that the American people are "hungry for change."