recently had dinner with my dear friend, Russell Simmons in NYC, and we
got into an in depth conversation about something that I didn’t know a
whole lot about.He told me about how, a couple weeks ago, he
was standing side by side with Governor David Paterson of New York
when, with one stroke of a pen, he ended the Rockefeller Drug Laws once
and for all.For the past seven years, Russell has been a
leading member of a campaign to end the Rockefeller Drug Laws, which
started mandatory minimum sentences in 1973 (meaning that if you get
busted for drugs, you get automatic sentencing, even if you’re an
addict or are non-violent).I learned during our conversation
that since the “War on Drugs” began in the 70’s, America has gone from
incarcerating 200,000 people to 2.4 million this year.When he told me that, I was shocked!!How did we get to this point where so many people are in prison?I
am not an expert in this area, and honestly, I have never really paid attention to
this issue in the past, but it doesn’t seem like we are on the right
path.I wonder why we put so many people in prison and treat so many drug users like criminals? Surely the best thing to do would be to get help for those who need it, instead of ignoring the problem and throwing them in jail, to take up spaces that should be filled with criminals… not addicts. A lot of people need support and treatment, and to be treated like individuals who need help, not criminals who need to be locked away in a cell. This is an issue that affects our whole nation, not just New York, so, I asked Russell how I could help.
the success of the Rockefeller Drug Law campaign, he was recently
approached by the White House and the US Attorney General to support
them in a major initiative to reform the criminal justice system nationwide.He asked me if I would join him on this journey.I
was humbled since I definitely need to learn more, but I will count on
Russell to teach me more and I am ready to dive into this issue and
speak to anyone who is willing to listen.And I know that if our generation decides that something needs to be changed, we will make that change.
What do you guys thing about this issue? It’s one I haven’t brought up before, but I’m sure you guys have some thoughts, and I’d love to hear them!