fixing the system (doc)


first time offender.. for life.. no parole.. was all about money.. for his fam

2 min – it doesn’t take 5-10 yrs for a person to be rehabilitated.. and it surely doesn’t take 20-30-40 yrs.. because your life’s gone

3 min – didn’t smoke/drink…nothin.. but that’s the way life is..

4 min – the systems backwards .. it’s just backwards

6 min – shane: america incarcerates more people than any other country on earth.. less than 5% of world’s pop.. but 25% of world’s inmates.. today 2.2 mill people behind bars in america.. 700% increase since 1970… we lock of 100s of 1000s of people for non-violent offenses.. as a result.. our prison system is disastrously overcrowded.. we spend about 80 bn a year just to keep it that way… meanwhile.. it’s minority communities that are getting hit hardest..

7 min – eric holder (

10 min – baltimore errupts in 2015 – over freddie gray

holder – we’re at a crossroads with policing.. there is certainly a divide.. between communities of color and law enforcement

divide ness

11 min – holden: this notion of implicit violence.. simply because of way you look

11 min – michael wood (baltimore police – when i was a sergeant.. we were routinely one of the best squads in the city.. but why.. because we had the most arrests.. stats almost exclusively black males in 16-24 range

whistelblowing ness

12 min – shane: recently.. with video cams et al.. we’ve been seeing this.. but black people in america have been living with this reality for years

13 min – shane: 75% that end up in fed prison for drug offenses are either black/hispanic..  but getting arrested is just the first step.. because once they enter the system.. they face huge prison sentences as mandated by congress

14 min – john gleeson ( injustice happens because of that (congress mandate).. 7% are in management.. 93% are low level folks.. if you’re a judge imposing that sentence.. you feel pretty bad about it because your job is to do justice

15 min – shane: how did we get here    john: jun 1986.. crack was new.. murder rate in ny.. 4x what it is now.. but there’s an event that happens.. len bias.. dies of overdose.. congress responds by passing a law.. drug trafficking is going to be mandatory min 10 yrs max life.. but congress made a mistake.. they triggered those mandatories by drug quantity/type… 100 gms of powdered cocaine treated same as 1 gm of crack cocaine… crack was an inner city/poor drug.. so a racially disperate impact..  we need to admit.. we are overly punitive and racially discriminative system… change comes slowly

16 min – shane: change comes slowly.. because for 40 yrs we’ve been entirely focused on the so called.. war on drugs

16 min – reagan.. bush..  clinton

17 min – shane: was the war on drugs successful   eric/john urquhart: no

20 min – obama – need to do something about it.. i will be first pres to visit fed prison.. july 2015 – in ok

21 min – obama – last 20 yrs seen a doubling in prison pop..

700% since 70..? do those jive..?

22 min – obama: incarceration became a simple recipe..

23 min – stats.. as violent crime decreased.. cost of prison increased.. 1 in 17 white will go to prison 1 in 3 black

31 min – shane: vast majority of drug cases.. result in plea bargain deals..

32 min – john: one thing system uses: to get out from an unjust criminal system is you plead guilty… fewer of 3% of cases go to trial

33 min – the reason i pleaded out (even though they are saying i was selling at the same time i was incarcerated).. is it’s hard to beat.. if you go to court.. you’ve got people you don’t even know testifying against you..  conspiracy laws.. allow a conviction.. off he say she say..

37 min – stanley washington – took his case to trial and lost.. as a result.. life w/o parole.. stanley: that’s just like death sentence.. so i had an idea to write all these lawyers.. and one went out to bryan stevenson.. at eji… 2 yrs later i was back in court.. bryan stevenson made me a free man

bryan – eji

38 min – bryan: prison pop goes from 300 000 to 2.3 mn.. and this has really redefined the kind of country we are.. the kind of place we inhabit.. greatest tragedy on people of color.. 1 in 3.. bottom line.. if poor.. particularly of color.. you’re assumed guilty.. which increases your burden of proof..

40 min – shane: affect on families.. over 1.1 mn fathers behind bars.. take father figure out.. feeds the cycle..

43 min – tyrone: on kids needing to be busy

ugh… they just need to be free..

45 min – sister saying son has a deep deep heart.. and when dad went to jail.. he covered that all up.. to be hard..

46 min – obama: as a society.. we seem to be ok with certain communities being locked in this cycle.. everybody thinks that’s normal.. we can’t have our kids thinking that way

47 min – arnelle stewart – (27 yr old from denver): before drugs i was nerdy/good student.. i grew up thru dare to say no to drugs period.. father working several jobs.. disconnected from mother who was using drugs.. prior to birth.. so when reunited.. the drugs were the commonality….. i found myself in prison

49 min – obama: recidivism.. 50% back in a yr later.. how do we make that transition effective

50 min – job training while in prison…. while here.. have to let the time serve you… once out.. if no job.. back to streets..

51 min – shane: even with basic job training.. re entry into society can be difficult

delmar smith – end up homeless.. unemployed.. state gives you $40 to walk out that gates.. the system is definitely designed for you to fail… i try to do 5 apps a day.. how many calls back.. 0….they don’t want to give you a second chance.. people just see you as an ex offender..

they don’t look at you as a person.. they look at your paper.. 

you’ve been to prison.. you’re no good

52 min – john wetzel (pa dept of corrections – rate of recidivism is a crippling problem across the system.. we’re spending 80 bn for 50% recidivism… failing half the time.. that doesn’t make any sense.. it’s called corrections for a reason… so have to be deliberate about the conditions under which we *release people..

that we have to say things like.. releasing people.. fail

john: conditions.. job..hs degree


53 min – john: if you don’t have a hs diploma and a prison record.. i’m not sure what you’re going to be successful at.. your prospects are .. to hit the lottery… or likely become re incarcerated

dang.. huge fail.. mindsets screwing us over big time

53 min – obama: trying to get employers to not ask on job apps about criminal record… disclosure happens later.. more likely to be hired…. then talking small business funding

56 min – smarter sentencing act… ted cruz.. rand paul…mike lee.. cory booker

59 min – cory booker (@CoryBooker – when mayor lived in highest crime neighborhood):

we need a far more comprehensive focus and a sense of urgency ..

baldwin: nothing more dangerous than a man who believes he has no hope

a nother way ..for (blank)’s sake

1:00- shane: thousands of dollars of fines.. never go away..

randall: i know one thing.. i find myself selling drugs to pay pennsylvania.. even if have job but no money.. they hold you

1:01 – shane: on top of that.. in many states.. public offenders can’t apply for food stamps.. public housing.. or ed loans .. stripping them of support they need to rebuild their lives..

1:02 – cory: i come back to jersey when i come back from the senate.. and i see a sense of urgency every single day..   we’re dealing with the generational consequences of being the country that has the ignominious distinction on the planet earth for incarcerating its own people.. we are the incarceration champions on the planet earth right now.. and we don’t understand that it hurst.. not just neighborhoods like this.. but it hurts all americans.. we’re all paying for this

1:03 – shane: can it be fixed   obama: so there’s a whole bunch of front end investments we can make: 1\focus on intervening w young people early 2\schools that black/latino boys aren’t suspended at higher rates 3\investing in ed… then we know less likely to get in criminal justice system in first place..


1:04 – obama: 4\invest in ed/substance-abuse/vocational programs in prisons


eric: there’s an opp right now to get this right

yes.. and we’re missing it by assuming it’s about jobs and ed and curtailing substance abuse..

1:05 – obama: if we can make progress on this subset of the problem.. which is nonviolent drug offenses.. we can actually get a working majority around this issue

oy.. – go deeper

cory: for our nation to be doing things that are contrary to our values.. i think it demands that all of us need to get up and do something about that.. king: what we’re going to have to repent for.. not the violent actions of bad people.. but the appalling silence of good people

silence..? or just not listening..  boo et al

and no binary of good and bad.. can’t be

john gleesing: we can lose sight of how intoxicated we’ve become as a culture with imprisonment as a response to crime…. we need to remind ourselves.. that there are real people/communities.. that have been altered dramatically

science of people ness

1:06 – bryan: when you think about throwing everybody in jails/prisons.. it’s a really hopeless way to govern a society.. completely inconsistent with a democracy that prides itself on freedom and equality.. lots of people are having their lives destroyed.. not because they have to but because we have chosen to ignore a basic commitment to fairness/justice/equality.. and that’s the challenge of america.. for me.. in the 21st cent

obama: nothing’s easy.. most people aren’t interacting with the criminal justice system and they don’t see the impact that it’s having on their communities.. and part of our job is just to shine a spotlight… i think there’s enough empathy of people across the political spectrum.. that we may be able to pull this off..


Shane Smith – director/producer/host



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