As part of SCSJ’s End Mass Incarceration Week observance, we are posting daily blogs about various issues affecting incarcerated people. This post by SCSJ macro social work intern Meredith McMonigle examines policy trends in mass incarceration.
Let’s look at recent developments on two fronts—policy, and in the arts and media, which may contribute to the end of mass incarceration
Two big developments are unfolding in tandem on the policy front. In Colorado, the impact of marijuana legislation is already being felt within and outside the state. And at the federal level, there is a flurry of activity in both the Executive and Legislative branches to curb excessive drug sentencing. We know that the drug war drives mass incarceration; so to see these trends is promising.
•The State has already collected 2 million in taxes from marijuana sales of which the first $20 million is earmarked for education spending.
•The Colorado State Appeals Court has ruled that the marijuana law can be applied retroactively to dismiss past marijuana convictions.
•Monitoring the potential for unintended consequences of marijuana legalization is explored in this article, The Unbearable Whiteness of Marijuana Legislation
•When will the Smarter Sentencing Act pass? This bipartisan bill would make crack sentencing reform retroactive and give judges more discretion in sentencing nonviolent drug offenders. The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and is awaiting a full vote in the Senate. A similar bill is making its way through the House.
•Obama Not Waiting– In December, President Obama issued clemency for 8 individuals serving excessively long sentences for crack cocaine. He has instructed lawyers to find similar cases in order to expand the number of prisoners eligible for clemency under these guidelines unless and until Congress acts to make the 2010 crack reform law retroactive. 12,000 federal prisoners could be eligible for clemency.
•In early March, Attorney General Holder testified in support of changes recommended by the Sentencing Commission that would reduce the amount of time served by drug traffickers and result in a reduction of the federal prison population by more than 6,000 people over the next five years.
ARTS & MEDIA
There are a number of very compelling projects underway that explore different dimensions of mass incarceration.
Fashion meets an innocence project in this documentary film in progress about a group of former Texas prisoners working to exonerate innocent men while making sure everyone has some fitted clothes in the process. The film just won a funding grant from Sundance. Watch the trailer and say you saw it here first.
•For Colored Boys: Redemption:
You think Orange is the New Black is good? Then you obviously haven’t seen For Colored Boys: Redemption, an amazing web series about the challenges of reentry from the director Stacey Muhammad. Charles Dutton, a man formerly incarcerated for murder and an award-winning actor, joins the cast of the second season. We wouldn’t be surprised if this gets picked up down the line by HBO or Netflix, it’s that good!
•Nas Meets Angela Davis:
Haven’t you been waiting a long time for the meeting of prison activism and rap music? Wait no more as Angela Davis and rapper Nas, sit down and discuss mass incarceration. Way beyond cool. Watch it here.