By Russell Simmons
I have received so many calls asking me to further respond to Don Lemon after what he said about me this weekend. And I would agree with him that that jail fashion has become the norm, for even people like Justin Bieber, i.e. saggy pants, but saggy pants don’t make the man, the prisons do. So, instead, I would rather turn my attention to what just happened in San Francisco that brings me great hope that one day, jail fashion may go out of style.
The time has come to end the so-called “War on Drugs.” Forty years of a failed war has destroyed communities and families all across our land. Hard earned tax-payer dollars have been wasted on ineffective policies that have resulted in over-incarceration, pushing state and federal budgets to the brink of bankruptcy. We elected President Barack Obama in 2008 with hopes that he would have the political will to reform our criminal justice system, and now the day has officially come. With the extraordinary leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder, I am inspired by his speech he gave this afternoon at the Annual Meeting of the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates, where he laid out a vision for a 21st century criminal justice system that is no longer focused solely on a “tough on crime” approach, but also must be “smart on crime.”
I have worked with many amazing people over the past few decades on issues of mass incarceration and poor drug policy, including all of the great civil rights groups and leaders, celebrities, men and women of faith, educators, elected officials and members of the business community. Across this country, we have worked with city council-members, mayors, state assembly members, state senators, congressional members, U.S. senators, governors and presidents on creating a paradigm shift in the way we punish those who have used drugs and those who have sold drugs. I think I can humbly say that on behalf of Dr. Boyce Watkins, myself and the over 175 people and organizations who most recently signed a letter to President Obama in April about our concern with the the mass incarceration epidemic in America, we thank Mr. Obama, Mr. Holder and the entire administration for this gigantic step forward.