Forget awards shows. Nothing brings together a group of A-list celebrities quite like a good cause.
Jennifer Hudson, Jon Hamm, Mark Wahlberg, Scarlett Johansson, and Will Smith are just a few of the stars who've joined forces and presented an open letter to President Obama urging him to reconsider criminal justice policies in relation to drug offenses in the United States. In fact, more than 175, actors, artists, athletes, elected officials, and advocates – all brought together by Russell Simmons and Dr. Boyce Watkins – have signed the letter.
"We believe the time is right to further the work you have done around revising our national policies on the criminal justice system and continue moving from a suppression-based model to one that focuses on intervention and rehabilitation," the letter reads, before pointing out the currently skyrocketing prison population due to an "enforcement-only 'War on Drugs' approach" which has "increased incarceration rates for non-violent crimes."
"The greatest victims of the prison industrial complex are our nation’s children," the letter states. "Hundreds of thousands of children have lost a parent to long prison sentences for non-violent drug offenses, leaving these children to fend for themselves. Many of these children end up in the criminal justice system, which comes as no surprise as studies have shown the link between incarceration and broken families, juvenile delinquency, violence, and poverty."
In other words, this coalition is urging Obama to change the way people are punished for drug-related crimes, pointing out that rehabilitation rather than incarceration could have a greater long-term effect on Americans.
"It is critical that we change both the way we think about drug laws in this country and how we generate positive solutions that leave a lasting impact on rebuilding our communities,” Simmons reiterated in a statement. “We need to break the school-to-prison pipeline, support and educate our younger generations, and provide them with a path that doesn’t leave them disenfranchised with limited options.”
“So called ‘tough on crime’ policies have failed our nation and its families, while ‘smart on crime’ policies work,” NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous said in a statement. “When we know that drug treatment is seven times more effective than incarceration for drug addicts, basic human decency demands our nation makes the switch.
"The fate of hundreds of people and the children who need them home and sober hang in the balance."
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