YOUR BLACK WORLD 1

Quick note from Dr. Boyce:  Thank you so much to those who’ve supported the open letter against mass incarceration written by myself and Russell Simmons.  We received overwhelming support from 175 public figures, scholars and celebrities who’ve co-signed the letter, ranging from the presidents of Morehouse and Spelman, to Rev. Jesse Jackson, Chris Rock, LL Cool J, Michelle Alexander (author of the New Jim Crow), Jennifer Hudson, Kerry Washington and a lot of other people with a direct interest in rebuilding American families that have been destroyed by the War on Drugs and mass incarceration.

 

The United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any country in the world, leading to a spike in single-parent homes and the insidious spread of prison culture, violence and devastation throughout all of black America.  Our goal is not to get rid of the prison system, but to simply support criminal justice policies that help reverse the destruction of the black family that has occurred as a result of the marginalization of millions of American citizens.

 

It appears that our push has been successful, and the White House is being responsive.  Just yesterday, the Obama Administration announced its plans to end the War on Drugs started during the Reagan Administration, shifting away from policies that focus solely on incarceration, and moving toward policies that focus on prevention and rehabilitation.  Our contacts and consultants in the drug policy arena have given every indication that this is one of the most significant drug policy announcements in years.   I thank President Obama for hearing the voice of the American people on this issue.

 

The fight is not over, for there are still thousands of families waiting for their loved ones to get a chance to become productive members of society.   I spoke just two days ago with Darrell Padgett, a man who did 20 years in prison for selling one gram of crack.  Darrell, whose wife waited for him for 20 years, educated himself on the law while in prison and literally wrote the legal documents to secure his early release (he was originally sentenced to 37.5 years) under the Fair Sentencing Act.  Darrell informed me that while the government has agreed that the sentences for non-violent drug possession were too harsh, there are thousands of inmates who are unable to secure the funds necessary to pay attorneys for their release under the new law.

 

So, if anyone has legal expertise that they can lend to this effort, I’d appreciate it if you could send me an email. I agree with NAACP President Ben Jealous (who also co-signed the letter) when he saysthat it’s time to get smart on crime.   Our country is not better off or safer when we lock up otherwise productive citizens and leave their children to become inmates for the next generation.

 

My personal interest in the issue derives from the fact that my biological father and younger brother both went to prison for drug-related crimes.  I also saw my uncle (who was the only older brother I’ve ever had) die after suffering for years from mental illness he experienced from going in and out of the prison system.  He had trouble getting jobs and was also unable to overcome the deep and severe psychological damage derived from whatever horrors one experiences by being sent to the state penitentiary at the age of 18 years old.   I remember writing letters to him in prison when I was 12-years old, and those memories stay with me till this day.  So, I feel the pain of every child in America who is waiting for their parent, uncle or older brother to come home.  This doesn’t mean that prison can’t be used to allow people to pay their debt to society, but we be adamant that the punishment always fits the crime:  Non-violent offenders should not be receiving 80-90 year prison sentences.

 

Let’s end this holocaust together….it affects all of us. The prison industrial complex can no longer be a feeding ground for young black children.  We owe them a better future.

 

If you’d like to join our coalition, please do so by visiting this link.   Please spread the word, for this is a marathon, not a sprint.  We’re in this battle for life.

 

Until we meet again, please stay strong, be blessed and be educated.

Sincerely,

 

Dr. Boyce Watkins

 

 

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