Open Letter to the WH / by J. Ivy

PROGRESS IS BEING MADE...earlier in the year Dr. Boyce Watkins headed up an open letter to President Barack Obama for prison reform, rehabilitation, and the reduction of sentences for non-violent offenses. As of this week Attorney General Eric Holder is now set to end the mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders. Click on the bold text below to read the article. Attached is the open letter written by Dr. Boyce Watkins to President Obama along with the list of over 150 signees, including myself. A change is happening!

Here’s the entire letter, followed by the entire list of signatories:

Dear President Obama, Your hard work and leadership on issues affecting the unrepresented classes of people in our nation have served as an inspiration to many of us who hope for brighter futures for all Americans. In that spirit, 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. We are proud of your accomplishments around these issues, specifically your leadership on gun control, your investments in “problem solving courts,” your creation of the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, your launching the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention and your prosecution of a record number of hate crimes in 2011 and 2012. We certainly hope that this type of leadership is appreciated by all members of Congress, regardless of political affiliation, and you are joined by members of all parties in your pursuit of a more perfected union. Mr. President, it is evident that you have demonstrated a commitment to pursue alternatives to the enforcement-only “War on Drugs” approach and address the increased incarceration rates for non-violent crimes. Your administration has moved in the right direction by committing increased funds to drug prevention and treatment programs and supporting state and local re-entry grants. We encourage you to continue your efforts to revamp the policies of the last 30 years that have seen the prison population skyrocket. The greatest victims of the prison industrial complex are our nation’s children. 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. Mr. President, we are a coalition of concerned advocates that is ready to support you in more innovative criminal justice reform and implementing more alternatives to incarceration. As you set in motion research and policy to combat this societal crisis, this coalition is poised to help you make the transition successful. In 2010, the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act was a tremendous step in the right direction, and we appreciate how hard you worked on getting that done. Some of the initial policies we recommend is, under the Fair Sentencing Act, extend to all inmates who were subject to 100-to-1 crack-to-powder disparity a chance to have their sentences reduced to those that are more consistent with the magnitude of the offense. We ask your support for the principles of the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013, which allows judges to set aside mandatory minimum sentences when they deem appropriate. We ask that you form a panel to review requests for clemency that come to the Office of the Pardon Attorney. Well-publicized errors and omissions by this office have caused untold misery to thousands of people. Additionally, we want to applaud your staunch commitment to re-entry programs that are necessary to ensure that those who leave the system are able to become productive members of society as well as reliable husbands, fathers, mothers and wives. We certainly would like to help you achieve an increase in the number of these transition programs. Finally, we strongly urge you to support the Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education (Youth PROMISE) Act, a bill that brings much needed focus on violence and gang intervention and prevention work. During your presidency you have made important steps and you now have the opportunity to leave a legacy by transforming our criminal justice system to an intervention and rehabilitation based model. Many of those impacted by the prison industrial complex are among your most loyal constituents. Your struggles as the child of a single mother allow you to identify with millions of children who long to be with their parents. We request the opportunity to meet with you to discuss these ideas further and empower our coalition to help you achieve your goals of reducing crime, lowering drug use, preventing juvenile incarceration and lowering recidivism rates. We stand with you, ready to do what is just for America. Here’s the list of signatories: CIVIL RIGHTS LEADERS & ADVOCATES Harry Belafonte Julian Bond Dr. Benjamin Chavis Major Neill Franklin, LEAP Rev. Jesse Jackson Benjamin Todd Jealous, NAACP Avis Jones-Deweever, National Council of Negro Women Maria Theresa Kumar, VotoLatino Donna Leiberman, NYCLU Margaret Moran, LULAC Marc Morial, National Urban League Ethan Nadelmann, Drug Policy Alliance Rev. Al Sharpton, NAN Rashad Robinson, Colors of Change Anthony Romero, ACLU Michael Skolnik Julie Stewart, Families Against Mandatory Minimums Susan Taylor Dr. Boyce Watkins Brent Wilkes, LULAC Vanessa Williams, National Conference of Black Mayors Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Hip-Hop Caucus ENTERTAINMENT La La Anthony Roseanne Barr Russell Brand Jim Carrey Cedric The Entertainer Margaret Cho Affion Crockett Rosario Dawson Cameron Diaz Mike Epps Omar Epps Jamie Foxx Tyrese Gibson Adrian Grenierhere u Jon Hamm Hill Harper Woody Harrelson Amber Heard Dule Hill Ron Howard J. Ivy Terrence J Eugene Jarecki Kris Jenner Scarlett Johannson Kim Kardashian Khloe Kardashian-Odom Kourtney Kardashian Sanaa Lathan LL Cool J Nia Long Eva Longoria AnnaLynne McCord Demi Moore Michael Moore Keya Morgan Jay Pharaoh Dominic Purcell Tim Robbins Chris Rock Susan Sarandon Sarah Silverman Russell Simmons Vanessa Simmons Jada Pinkett Smith Will Smith Tika Sumpter Gabrielle Union Denise Vasi Mark Walhberg Estella Warren Kerry Washington Pauletta Washington Marlon Wayans Jesse Williams Jeffrey Wright FAITH COMMUNITY Bishop James Clark Bishop Noel Jones Bishop Clarence Laney Bishop Edgar Vann Dr. Iva Carruthers Deepak Chopra Father Michael Pfleger Rabbi Robyn Fryer Bodzin Rabbi Menachem Creditor Rabbi Nina Mandel Rev. Jamal Bryant Rev. Delman Coates Rev. Leah D. Daughtry Rev. Dr. Fredrick Haynes Rev. Michael McBride Rev. Dr. W Franklyn Richardson MUSIC INDUSTRY David Banner Eric Benet Andre “3000″ Benjamin Big Boi of Outkast Case Charlamagne tha God Sean “Diddy” Combs Chuck D DJ Envy DJ Pauly D Ani Difranco Jermaine Dupri Missy Elliot Estelle Jason Flom John Forte Ghostface Killah Ginuwine Keri Hilson Jennifer Hudson Ice-T Luke James Trinidad James Lyfe Jennings Jim Jones Talib Kweli John Legend Ryan Leslie Joanna “JoJo” Levesque Kevin Liles Ludacris Lil Wayne Natalie Maines Angie Martinez Nicki Minaj Mya Q-Tip Busta Rhymes Steve Rifkind Samantha Ronson Rick Ross RZA Timeflies Katrina “Trina” Taylor Teyana Taylor Angela Yee BUSINESS LEADERS Sir Richard Branson Ron Busby, US Black Chamber of Commerce Daymond John Minyon Moore Chip Rosenbloom, Owner St. Louis Rams Bobby Shriver ELECTED OFFICIALS Congressman Tony Cardenas Congressman Keith Ellison Congresswoman Marcia Fudge Congresswoman Barbara Lee Congressman Bobby Rush Congressman Bobby Scott ATHLETES Brendon Ayanbadejo Allan Houston Isareal Idonije Lamar Odom Etan Thomas Isiah Thomas Mike Tyson FASHION INDUSTRY Tyson Beckford Selita Ebanks Kenza Fourati Kimora Lee Simmons Veronika Verekova MEDIA Chris Broussard Chuck Creekmur, Ed Gordon TJ Holmes Cathy Hughes, Radio One Alfred Liggins, Radio One Dylan Ratigan Jim Wallis, Sojourners Dave Zirin ACADEMIA & THOUGHT LEADERS Michelle Alexander Dr. Carlton Brown, Clark Atlanta Univ. Prof. Michael Eric Dyson Dr. Christopher Emdin Dr. Michael Fauntroy Dr. Eddie Glaude Airickca Gordon-Taylor Dream Hampton Dr. Marc Lamont Hill Naomi Klein Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu Dr . Wilmer Leon Dr. Julianne Malveaux Dr. John E. Maupin, Jr., Morehouse School of Medicine Kevin Powell Dr. Stanley Pritchett, Morris Brown College Ricky “Freeway” Ross Dr. Tyra Seldon, Co Chair, Education Over Incarceration (EOI) Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, Spelman College Terrie Williams