13th (2016) Movie Script

So let's look at the statistics.
The United States is home
to 5% of the world's population...
but 25% of the world's prisoners.
Think about that.
A little country with 5%
of the world's population
having 25% of the world's prisoners?
One out of four?
One out of four human beings
with their hands on bars, shackled,
in the world are locked up here,
in the land of the free.
We had a prison population of 300,000
in 1972.
Today, we have a prison population
of 2.3 million.
The United States now has the highest rate
of incarceration in the world.
So, you see, now suddenly
they're in an awakening that,
"Oh, perhaps we need to downsize
our prison system.
It's gotten too expensive.
It's gotten out of hand."
Um, but the very folks
who often express so much concern,
uh, about the cost
and the expanse of the system
are often very unwilling
to talk in any serious way
about remedying the harm
that has been done.
History is not just
stuff that happens by accident.
We are the products of the history
that our ancestors chose, if we're white.
If we are black, we are products
of the history that our ancestors
most likely did not choose.
Yet here we all are together,
the products of that set of choices.
And we have to understand that
in order to escape from it.
The 13th Amendment to the Constitution
makes it unconstitutional
for someone to be held as a slave.
In other words, it grants freedom...
to all Americans.
There are exceptions, including criminals.
There's a clause, a loophole.
If you have that
in the structure,
in this constitutional language,
then it's there to be used as a tool
for whichever purposes
one wants to use it.
One of the things
to bear in mind is that
when we think about slavery,
it was an economic system.
And the demise of slavery
at the end of the Civil War
left the Southern economy in tatters.
Uh, and so this presented a big question.
There are four million people
who were formerly property,
and they were formerly
kind of the integral part
of the economic production system
in the South.
And now those people are free.
And so what do you do with these people?
How do you rebuild your economy?
The 13th Amendment loophole
was immediately exploited.
After the Civil War,
African Americans were arrested en masse.
It was our nation's first prison boom.
You were basically a slave again.
The 13th Amendment says that
"Except for criminals,
everybody else is free."
Well, now if you're criminalized,
that doesn't apply to you.
They were arrested
for extremely minor crimes,
like loitering or vagrancy.
And they had to provide labor
to rebuild the economy
of the South after the Civil War.
What you got after that
was a rapid transition
to a kind of mythology
of black criminality.
Go back and, you know, read the rhetoric
that people used then.
They would say that the Negro
was out of control,
that there's a threat of violence
to white women.
So the same sort of image
that we had of Uncle Remus
and these genial, kind of, black figures
was replaced by this rapacious,
uh, menacing, Negro male evil
that had to be banished.
Birth of a Nation was
just a profoundly important
cultural event.
It's the first major blockbuster film,
hailed for both its artistic achievement
and for its political commentary.
And when it was released,
it had this rapturous response.
You know, there were lines everywhere
that it was being shown.
Birth of a Nation confirmed the story
that many whites wanted to tell
about the Civil War and its aftermath.
To erase defeat and to take out of it
sort of a martyrdom.
Woodrow Wilson, the sitting president,
had a private screening
of it in the White House. He calls it,
"History written with lightning."
And every image you see of a black person
is a demeaned, animal-like image.
Cannibalistic, animalistic.
The image of the African American male.
There's a famous scene
where a woman throws herself off a cliff
rather than be raped
by a black male criminal.
In the film, you see black people
being a threat to white women.
All the myths of black men as rapists
was ultimately stemmed by the reality
that the white political elite
and the business establishment
needed black bodies working.
What we overlook
about Birth of a Nation
is that it was also
a tremendously accurate prediction
of the way in which race
would operate in the United States.
Birth of a Nation
was almost directly responsible
for the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan.
It had received this romantic,
glowing, heroic portrait.
The Klan never had the ritual
of burning the cross.
That was something
that D.W. Griffith came up with
because he thought
that it was a great cinematic image.
So it was literally
an instance of life imitating art.
The ripples emanate far out
from just the simple fact
that it's a movie
in the early motion picture age.
With the tremendous
burst of popularity
that the Ku Klux Klan
had as a result of Birth of a Nation
came another wave of terrorism.
We had lynchings
between Reconstruction and World War II.
Thousands of African Americans
murdered by mobs
under the idea
that they had done something criminal.
At the National Democratic
Convention in New York in 1924,
it is estimated that at least
350 delegates were Klansmen.
The demographic geography
of this country was shaped by that era.
Now we have African Americans
in Los Angeles,
in Oakland, and Chicago, and Cleveland,
Detroit, Boston, New York.
And very few people appreciate that
the African Americans in those communities
did not go there as immigrants
looking for new economic opportunities.
They went there as refugees from terror.
We didn't just land in Oakland,
in LA, in Compton,
in Harlem, in Brownsville in 2015.
This is generational...
generational trauma.
The letters "KKK"
were carved with a penknife
on the chest and stomach
of this man in Houston, Texas,
after he had been hanged by his knees
from an oak tree and flogged with a chain.
The Chicago Negro boy,
Emmett Till, is alleged
to have paid unwelcome attention
to Roy Bryant's most attractive wife.
And then
when it became unacceptable
to engage in that kind of open terrorism,
then it shifted to something more legal.
Segregation. Jim Crow.
Laws were passed
that relegated African Americans
to a permanent second-class status.
These things really begin to live out
the prophecy that Griffith was making
about the way that race operates.
And this fear of crime
is central to all of this.
Every time you saw a sign
that said "white and colored,"
every time you had to deal
with the indignation
of being told you can't go
through the front door.
Every day you weren't allowed to vote,
weren't allowed to go to school,
you were bearing a burden
that was injurious.
Civil rights activists
began to see the necessity
of building not just
a civil rights movement,
but a human rights movement.
And I think we should start now preparing
for the inevitable.
And let us,
when that moment comes...
go into the situations that we confront
with a great deal of dignity,
sanity and reasonableness.
They want to throw
white children and colored children
into the melting pot of integration,
through out of which
will come a conglomerated,
mulatto, mongrel class of people.
Both races will be destroyed
in such a movement.
We just got a report here
on this end that the students are in.
Negroes were trying
to integrate the bathing beaches.
And the Florida Advisory Committee
to the US Civil Rights Commission
warned that the city was becoming
a racial superbomb with a short fuse.
Civil rights activists
began to be portrayed in the media
and among, you know,
many politicians as criminals.
People who are deliberately
violating the law,
segregation laws
that existed in the South.
For years now,
I have heard the word "wait."
It rings in the ear of every Negro
with piercing familiarity.
This wait has almost always meant never.
Justice too long delayed
is justice denied.
I think that one of the most brilliant
tactics of the civil rights movement
was its transformation
of the notion of criminality.
Because for the first time,
being arrested was a noble thing.
Being arrested by white people
was your worst nightmare.
Still is, uh, for many African Americans.
So what'd they do?
They voluntarily defined a movement
around getting arrested.
They turned it on its head.
If you looked at the history
of black people's
various struggles in this country,
the connecting theme
is the attempt to be understood
as full, complicated human beings.
We are something other than
this, uh, visceral image of criminality
and menace and threat
to which people associate with us.
We're willing to be beaten for democracy,
and you misuse democracy in the street.
Let us lay aside irrelevant differences...
and make our nation whole.
The Civil Rights Act
and the Voting Rights Act said,
"Finally, we admit it.
Though slavery ended in December 1865...
we took away these people's rights,
and now we're gonna fix it."
For the first time,
you know, promise of equal justice
becomes at least a possibility.
Their cause must be our cause, too.
at the very same time
that the civil rights movement
was gaining steam,
crime rates were beginning to rise
in this country.
Crime was increasing
in the baby boom generation
that had emerged
immediately after World War II.
Now they were adults.
So, just through sheer demographic change,
we had an increase in the amount of crime.
...and became very easy
for politicians then to say,
um, that the civil rights movement itself
was contributing to rising crime rates,
and that if we were to give
the Negroes their freedom, um,
then we would be repaid,
as a nation, with crime.
The prison population
in the United States was largely flat
throughout most of the 20th century.
It didn't go up a lot.
It didn't come down a lot.
But that changed in the 1970s.
And in the 1970s, we began an era
which has been defined by this term,
"mass incarceration."
This is a nation of laws,
and as Abraham Lincoln has said,
"No one is above the law.
No one is below the law."
And we're going to enforce the law
and Americans should remember that,
if we're going to have law and order.
Breaking rocks out here
On the chain gang
Breaking rocks and serving my time
Breaking rocks out here
On the chain gang
Because I've been convicted of crime
Hold it steady right there
While I hit it
Each moment in history
is a fleeting time, precious and unique.
But some stand out
as moments of beginning...
in which courses are set
that shape decades or centuries.
This can be such a moment.
It's with the Nixon era,
and the law and order period
when crime begins to stand in for race.
If there is one area
where the word "war" is appropriate,
it is in the fight against crime.
Part of what he talked about
was a war on crime.
But that was one of those code words,
what we might call
"dog-whistle politics" now,
which really was referring to
the black political movements of the day,
Black Power, Black Panthers,
the antiwar movement,
the movements for women's
and gay liberation at that time,
which Nixon felt compelled
to fight back against.
Once the federal government,
through the FBI, moves into an area,
this should be warning
to those who engage in these acts
that they eventually
are going to be apprehended.
There's this outcry
for law and order.
And Nixon becomes the person
who articulates that perfectly.
There can be no progress
in America without respect for law.
Many people felt like, uh,
we were losing control.
We need total war
in the United States
against the evils, uh,
that we see in our cities.
Federal spending
for local law enforcement will double.
Time is running out
for the merchants
of crime and corruption
in American society.
The wave of crime is not going to be
the wave of the future
in the United States of America.
We must wage
what I have called "total war"
against public enemy number one
in the United States,
the problem of dangerous drugs.
"A war on drugs."
And that utterance gave birth to this era,
where we decided to deal
with drug addiction and drug dependency
as a crime issue
rather than a health issue.
Hundreds of thousands of people
were sent to jails and prisons
for simple possession of marijuana,
for low-level offenses.
America's public enemy number one
in the United States is drug abuse.
In order to fight and defeat this enemy,
it is necessary to wage
a new, all-out offensive.
This call for law and order
becomes integral to something that
comes to be known
as the Southern strategy.
Nixon begins to recruit Southern whites,
formerly staunch Democrats,
into the Republican fold.
Persuading poor
and working-class whites
to join the Republican Party in droves...
By speaking to,
in subtle and non-racist terms...
...a thinly veiled racial appeal...
...talking about crime,
by talking about law and order
or the chaos of our urban cities
unleashed by the civil rights movement.
We have launched
an all-out offensive against crime,
against narcotics,
against permissiveness in our country.
The rhetoric of
"get tough" and "law and order,"
um, was part and parcel of the backlash
of the civil rights movement.
A Nixon administration official
admitted the war on drugs
was all about
throwing black people in jail.
He said, quote,
The end of the Reagan era
I'm like 11 or 12 or
Old enough to understand
The shit'll change forever
They declared the war on drugs
Like a war on terror
But what it really did was
Let the police terrorize whoever
But mostly black boys
But they would call us niggers
And lay us on our belly
While they fingers on they triggers
Raise your right hand and repeat after me.
I, Ronald Reagan, do solemnly swear...
that I will faithfully
execute the Office...
The election of Ronald Reagan was, uh,
in many ways, transformative,
in a negative sense.
President Richard Nixon
was the first to coin the term
"a war on drugs,"
but President Ronald Reagan turned
that rhetorical war into a literal one.
It's back to school time
for America's children.
And while drug and alcohol abuse
cuts across all generations,
it's especially damaging
to the young people
on whom our future depends.
The modern war on drugs was declared
by Ronald Reagan in 1982.
As we mobilize for this national crusade,
I'm mindful that drugs
are a constant temptation for millions.
Popular opinion polls of the day
show that it wasn't an issue
for most people in the United States.
But Reagan was determined
to put this onto the agenda
to define it as a problem.
A war against drugs
is a war of individual battles.
Reagan used his wife, for example,
in this "Just Say No" campaign.
She has helped so many of our young people
to say no to drugs.
Nancy, much credit belongs to you.
This is your brain.
This is drugs.
This is your brain on drugs.
I joined it.
And some people said,
"Well, how can you join
a person declaring a war on drugs,
someone like Ronald Reagan?"
I joined with Nancy Reagan
because she said, "Just say no."
Just say no so loud
that everyone around you can hear it.
We're talking about a general education
that we're talking about.
We're not talking about locking up people.
We're talking about educating people.
We're talking about prevention.
There was a crisis
in the US economy at that time.
I regret to say
that we're in the worst economic mess
since the Great Depression.
There is a frontal assault
on institutions that are designed
to assist human beings,
on the education system, welfare,
on jobs, healthcare.
Government programs that can't be paid for
out of a balanced budget
must be paid for out of your pocket.
The rich are getting richer
and the poor are getting poorer.
The idea of expanding, uh,
the freedom of American business
and the entrepreneurial class...
We will save $1.8 billion
in fiscal year 1982.
Luxury stores like
Neiman Marcus predicts record sales.
The number of Americans
dipping under the poverty level
has reached the highest rate
in two decades.
Yes, there has been
an increase in poverty,
but it is a lower rate of increase
than it was in the preceding years,
before we got here.
It has begun to decline,
but it is still going up.
In the mid-1980s,
we were already starting to embark
on a war on drugs
and then all of a sudden,
along comes this new drug, crack cocaine.
Steve Young reports
on a new kind of cocaine called crack.
It's dangerous. It's deadly.
It will kill you.
"The drug epidemic is as dangerous
as any terrorist that we face."
That is just some of what was said today
to House and Senate committees
holding hearings on drug abuse in America.
We have this drug that
could be marketed in very small doses,
relatively inexpensively,
this was going to just
take over communities,
and particularly
African American communities.
Crack was largely an inner-city issue
and cocaine was largely a suburban issue.
Smokable cocaine,
otherwise known as crack,
it is an uncontrolled fire.
in virtually record time,
mandatory sentencing penalties for crack
that were far harsher than those
for powder cocaine.
The same amount of time in prison
for one ounce of crack cocaine
that you get for 100 ounces
of powder cocaine.
Police here are cracking down
on crack dealers.
Usually black or Hispanic, Latino,
they were getting long sentences
for possession of crack.
You're black with crack cocaine,
you goin' to prison
for basically the rest of your life.
Um, and if you're white, you're
pretty much getting slapped on the wrist.
was more sophisticated.
It was just a powder.
By next year,
our spending for drug law enforcement
will have more than tripled
from its 1981 levels.
All of a sudden, a scythe
went through our black communities,
literally cutting off men
from their families,
literally huge chunks
just disappearing into our prisons,
and for really long times.
Millions of dollars
will be allocated
for prison and jail facilities.
These sorts of disparities
under Reagan
quickly exploded
into the era of mass incarceration.
What Reagan ultimately does is...
takes the problem of economic inequality,
of hypersegregation in America's cities,
and the problem of drug abuse,
and criminalizes all of that
in the form of the war on drugs.
We absolutely should have treated
crack and cocaine,
uh, as exactly the same thing.
I think it was an enormous burden
on the black community,
but it also fundamentally violated
a sense of core fairness.
When crack cocaine hit
in the early '80s,
there were a lot of mayors who felt
very strongly that this is a real threat
and they wanted to crack down.
And Rangel was one of the guys
pushing for stronger sentencing.
It may have seemed
like a good idea at the time,
but it sure didn't work out
as being effective.
Then, years later,
there was an effort to rewrite history,
that it was a racial disparity
put in by mean white people.
Um, it's not where it came from.
In many ways,
the so-called war on drugs
was a war on communities of color,
a war on black communities,
a war on Latino communities.
And you see a rhetorical war that was,
you know,
announced as part of a political strategy
by Richard Nixon
and which morphed into a literal war
by Ronald Reagan,
um, turning into something
that began to feel nearly genocidal
in many poor communities of color.
So Nixon's Southern strategy
was implemented right after
the civil rights movement.
He played on fear of crime,
and law and order
to win the election easily.
Reagan promised tax cuts to the rich,
and to throw all the crack users in jail,
both of which devastated
communities of color
but were effective
in getting the Southern vote.
There's really no understanding
of our American political culture
without race at the center of it.
And in 1981,
just before Reagan assumed the presidency,
his campaign strategist, Lee Atwater,
was caught on tape
explaining the Southern strategy.
In other words, you start out...
They claiming I'm a criminal
But now I wonder how
Some people never know
The enemy
Could be their friend, guardian
I'm not a hooligan
I rock the party and
The minute they see me, fear me
I'm the epitome
A public enemy
Used, abused without clues
I refuse to blow a fuse
They even had it on the news
Don't believe the hype, don't
Don't, don't, don't believe the hype
The war on drugs had become
part of our popular culture,
in television programs like Cops.
When you cut on your local news at night,
you see black men
being paraded across the screen
in handcuffs.
Black people, black men
and black people in general,
are overrepresented in news as criminals.
When I say overrepresented,
that means they are shown as criminals
more times than is accurate,
that they are actually criminals, right,
based on FBI statistics.
I mean, I'm a big believer
in the power of media
full of these clichs
that basically present
mostly black and brown folks
who seem like animals in cages,
and then someone
can turn off the TV thinking...
"It's a good thing for prisons,
because, otherwise, those crazy people
would be walking on my block."
Creating a context
where people are afraid.
And when you make people afraid,
you can always justify
putting people in the garbage can.
Chances are you could run into a kid
waiting to relieve you
of your purse or wallet.
Every media outlet in the country
thinks I'm less than human.
I began to hear the word "super predator"
as if that was my name.
Super predator.
- Super predator.
- "Super predators," end quote.
That's the word they used
to describe this generation,
and it was very, very effective.
Experts call them super predators.
They are not just gangs of kids anymore.
They are often the kinds of kids
that are called super predators.
No conscience, no empathy.
A group of kids growing up
essentially fatherless,
godless and jobless.
For me, what's disturbing
is the degree to which black people
bought into that.
Animals, beasts that needed
to be controlled.
When those grandmothers say,
"But he's a good boy.
He never did anything,"
don't you believe it.
Black communities began
to actually support policies
that criminalized their own children.
Last night, the eight teens
accused of the attack
were arraigned on charges of rape
and attempted murder.
In the Central Park jogger case,
they put five innocent teens in prison,
because the public pressure
to lock up these quote, unquote animals
was so strong.
You better believe
that I hate the people
that took this girl
and raped her brutally.
- You better believe it.
- Donald Trump wanted to give
these kids the death penalty,
and he took out a full page ad
to put the pressure on.
These children, four of them under 18,
all went to adult prisons
for six to eleven years,
before DNA evidence proved
they were all innocent.
We make them their crime.
That's how we introduced them.
"That's a rapist. That's a murderer.
That's a robber.
That's a sex offender.
That's a burglar.
That's a gang leader."
And through that lens,
it becomes so much easier
to accept that they're guilty
and that they should go to prison.
The objective reality is...
that virtually no one who is white
understands the challenge
of being black in America.
So you have then educated a public,
deliberately, over years, over decades,
to believe that black men in particular,
and black people in general,
are criminals.
I want to be clear,
because I'm not just saying
that white people believe this, right?
Black people also believe this
and are terrified of our own selves.
You want to go back to the days
of military weakness,
caring more about criminals than victims?
We can't risk that.
I'd like your vote on Tuesday.
Leadership that's on your side.
Michael Dukakis for president.
In the midst of the, uh,
presidential campaign,
an ad was released about a person
by the name of Willie Horton.
Bush and Dukakis on crime.
Dukakis not only
opposes the death penalty,
he allowed first degree murderers
to have weekend passes from prison.
One was Willie Horton.
This became a focal point
of an entire presidential campaign.
Horton fled,
kidnapped a young couple,
stabbing the man
and repeatedly raping his girlfriend.
Weekend prison passes.
Dukakis on crime.
Dukakis had protected the program,
vetoed an effort to repeal it,
in that he favored letting murderers
out on the weekend.
That Dukakis
had a double-digit lead over Bush
before the campaign
focused on Willie Horton,
and after that, Bush overtook Dukakis
and won the election.
Which candidate for president
can you count on to be tough on crime?
George Bush.
Bush won the election by creating fear
around black men as criminal,
without saying that's what he was doing.
A very racially, um...
you know, divisive moment.
Depicting an African American criminal,
I think, was deliberate
on the part of that campaign.
There's no one who can tell me otherwise.
Liberals call him Willie Horton to make it
sound like you're being dismissive.
Original article was Reader's Digest.
William Horton, no picture.
The Democrats want you to know
he's black.
Thanks, Grover.
It was not his name,
it was his image
that was sensationalized.
Liberals that announced that it was mean
to pick on a murderer and a rapist
lose all credibility on this discussion.
They just lose it.
And people go,
"We don't want to hear anything else
you have to say about crime."
No matter what anybody says
or what anybody does,
they know exactly what button
they were trying to hit with that ad.
Stabbing the man
and raping his girlfriend.
It went to a kind of primitive fear,
a primitive American fear,
because Willie Horton
was metaphorically the black male rapist
that had been a staple
of the white imagination
since the time just after slavery.
Here was a black man
convicted of rape.
"I will be the savior and protector
of the white population."
Never minding the fact that the history
of interracial rape in this country,
that that record is far more marked
by white rape against black women
than of black men against white women.
This idea
that had such great artistic utility
in 1915 in Birth of a Nation
still had a great deal
of political utility
almost at the end of that century.
The way that we appeal to voters'
sense of fear and anxiety in our nation
runs through black bodies.
Yo, lil' Kadeija pops is locked
He wanna pop the lock
But prison ain't nothin'
But a private stock
She be dreamin'
'Bout his date of release
She hate the police
But loved by her grandma
Who hugs and kisses her
Her father's a political prisoner
Free Fred
Son of a Panther
That the government shot dead
Behind enemy lines
My niggas is cellmates
Most of the youths
Never escape the jail fates
Super maximum camps
Will advance they game plan
To keep us in the hands of the man
Locked up
A new generation
of Democrats, Bill Clinton and Al Gore.
They don't think the way
the old Democratic party did.
They've sent a strong signal to criminals
by supporting the death penalty.
Looking at the way in which
Democrats were defeated in 1988,
or they were defeated in 1984,
or they were defeated in 1980,
there comes to be a sentiment
among the Democrats
that they have to adopt a position
that is much more, uh, kind of, centrist.
It became virtually impossible
for a politician to run
and appear soft on crime.
I was not for the bill
that he was talking about
because it was not tough enough
on the criminal.
In an environment
where everybody's doing the same thing,
everybody's competing
to be tough on crime,
you quickly all end up in the same space,
so it doesn't become a political advantage
unless you do something more.
We need more police on the street.
There is a crime bill which would
put more police on the street,
which was killed for this session
by a filibuster in the Senate,
mostly by Republican senators.
We'd consistently had,
"Squishy, soft liberal won't protect you.
Tough, conservative will protect you."
And we won that fight every time.
And by the late '80s, early '90s,
people like Bill Clinton
had begun to figure out
they had to be able to match us.
I will faithfully execute the Office
of President of the United States.
Bill Clinton is trying to figure out
how he can deal with a country
that's still basically Reagan's country,
but he's trying to govern as a Democrat.
Violent crime and the fear it provokes
are crippling our society.
Then some high-profile,
very horrendous crimes take place.
Residents pull together
in the search for 12-year-old Polly Klaas.
They are now coping with the discovery
of her body over the weekend.
Polly Klaas, abducted from
her bedroom at home and ultimately killed,
which led to the California
"three strikes and you're out" law.
When you commit a third violent crime,
you will be put away
and put away for good.
Three strikes and you are out.
A person's convicted
of their third felony,
essentially that person is mandated
to prison for the rest of their lives.
So many third-strike defendants
awaiting trial,
the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department
is forced to release 4,200
misdemeanor inmates every month
to make room for incoming
three-strike prisoners.
It's in line with many other policies
we've created,
particularly mandatory minimums.
"Mandatory sentencing." We said
we were no longer going to let judges
consider the circumstances around a crime.
We're just going to impose
a mandatory sentence.
And that's a difficult thing for judges
because they are trying
to dispense justice on a daily basis
and are unable to do so.
In many California communities,
all civil trials have been canceled
to catch up
with the criminal case workload.
We've taken discretion
away from judges,
arguably the most neutral party
in the court,
and given it over to prosecutors.
Ninety-five percent of elected prosecutors
throughout the United States are white.
Serious, violent criminals
serve at least 85% of their sentence.
We passed Truth in Sentencing
that kept people imprisoned
for 85% of their sentence.
Truth in Sentencing.
You're sentenced to an amount of time.
The public wants to be confident
that you're gonna do
just about every bit of that time.
We've done away with parole.
So, in the federal system, when you get
20 years or 30 years, that's what you got.
We had parole in this country
as a mechanism for getting people
out of jails and prisons
when it was clear that they were
no longer a threat to public safety.
Sharanda has spent the last 16 years
in prison, and she'll die there,
because she was sentenced
to life without parole.
Her only crime?
Transporting cocaine.
And when I say "only crime,"
I mean only crime.
She had no other arrests. None.
The judge was required...
required to send Sharanda away for life.
Longer sentences,
three strikes and you're out,
almost 60
new capital punishment offenses...
And then comes the Congress
with a proposal for a $30 billion
federal crime bill of 1994
that was heavily loaded towards
law enforcement incarceration.
I propose a 21st century crime bill
to deploy
the latest technologies and tactics
to make our communities even safer.
That omnibus crime bill was responsible
for a massive expansion
of the prison system.
And beyond that, it provided all kinds
of money and perverse incentives
for law enforcement
to do a lot of the things
that we nowadays consider to be abusive.
It will be used to build prisons to keep
100,000 violent criminals off the street.
Not only does he increase
funding to states to build prisons
to lock up as many people
involved in drug crimes,
but also to put
100,000 police officers on the street.
Crime has been a hot political issue
used too often to divide us.
What President Clinton did in 1994
is actually far more harmful
than his predecessors
because he actually built
that infrastructure that we see today,
the militarization all the way down
to small, rural police departments
that have SWAT teams.
And again we see
this kind of notching up
of the number of people who were
being arrested at every level
and this kind
of exploding prison population.
We are a nation
that professes freedom,
yet we have this mass incarceration,
this hyperincarceration,
uh, that is trawling into it,
grinding into it,
our most vulnerable citizenry,
and is overwhelmingly biased
towards people of color.
But I want to say
a few words about it.
Because I signed a bill
that made the problem worse.
And I want to admit it.
His 1994 crime bill, something
that he now admits was a mistake...
There were longer sentences.
And most of these people
are in prison under state law,
but the federal law set a trend.
And that was overdone.
We were wrong about that.
Well, I think it's important
that President Clinton, um, acknowledges
that things didn't turn out exactly
as he and all of us would've wished.
I'm happy that he realizes
the error of his ways.
I think he knew back then that
it wasn't good policy, I'll be honest.
Back then, there was an outcry
over the rising crime rate.
And people from all communities
were asking that action be taken.
Now, my husband said
at the NAACP last summer
that it solved some problems,
but it created other problems,
and I agree.
I'm glad to see that he is apologetic,
but I think he has to take responsibility
and accountability for that,
and so does Hillary,
because she supported it,
then and up until recently.
Bill Clinton faced off against
a group of Black Lives Matter protestors
protesting a 1994 crime bill
that they say led to a surge
in the imprisonment of black people.
I don't know how you would characterize
the gang leaders who got
13-year-old kids hopped up on crack
and sent 'em out onto the street
to murder other African American children.
Maybe you thought they were good citizens.
She didn't.
She didn't!
You are defending the people
who kill the lives you say matter.
Tell the truth.
We can't ignore the reality of force here.
The policies
that Bill Clinton put forward,
you know, mandatory minimums,
three strikes...
Those were a use of political force.
They forced millions of people,
who would not otherwise
be in prison today, into prison.
They forced families to be broken.
They forced children
to live without their parents.
That's what happened.
We shouldn't ask,
"Why is Bill Clinton so strong?"
We should ask,
"Why is the black community so weak
in our inability to defend ourselves?"
Let's not forget how many martyrs
we put in the ground in the '60s and '70s.
Let's not forget how many of our leaders
had to leave the country or are in prison.
You stripped out
a whole generation of leadership.
You ran them out the country,
you put them in prison,
you put them in... in cemeteries.
And then you unleash this blitzkrieg,
and we don't have the ability
to defend ourselves.
You can tell the story
of white leadership in America
and never mention the FBI one time.
You can't tell the story
of black leadership, not one,
without having to deal
with the full weight
of the criminal justice system
weaponizing its black dissent.
I'm tired of living every day
under the threat of death.
I have no martyr complex.
I want to live as long
as anybody in this building tonight.
Dr. King, people forget,
was not this beloved figure
that everybody wants to put on a pedestal.
Uh, he was considered one
of the most dangerous people in America
by the head
of the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
Don't tell me
that Dr. King has no relevance
to young brothers in the street.
They dealing with little cops.
He was dealing with the top cop.
We were brought here
against our will.
We were not brought here
to be made citizens.
We were not brought here
to enjoy the, uh, constitutional gifts
that they speak so beautifully about.
Malcolm's whole entourage
was infiltrated with police.
He may have had as many police
as he had regular folk
in his entourage, under cover.
So afraid of black dissent.
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover
today asserted that the Black Panthers
represent the greatest internal threat
to the nation.
J. Edgar Hoover said
these Panthers represent
the greatest threat
to American democracy at the time.
The Panthers never were that big.
I mean, no one in their right mind
could ever believe
that the Black Panthers
were gonna bring down
the greatest military force
in the history of the world.
The whole movement was criminalized
and destroyed systematically
by the government.
People haven't thought about
what it means to lose a Fred Hampton,
who somehow was able to pull together
blacks and whites
and Puerto Ricans and Native Americans
to fight for justice at 21.
We're going to say it after this
and after I'm locked up
and after everybody's locked up,
that you can jail revolutionaries,
but you can't jail a revolution.
He had to go.
The head of the Black Panthers in Illinois
was killed today by police in Chicago.
Illinois Panther Chairman
Fred Hampton and another Panther leader
from Peoria, Illinois, were killed.
This is where our chairman
had his brains blown out
as he lay in his bed
sleeping at 4:30 in the morning.
They literally went
and shot his whole house up,
with his pregnant wife
next to him in the bed.
So afraid of a leader
that could unite people.
We know the history of folks
who've done this kind of standing up
to these systems,
and we know how the system has
murdered them, assassinated them,
exiled them, excluded them,
or found ways to discredit them.
Assata Shakur was one of the great leaders
of the Black Liberation Army.
That, um, order given by J. Edgar Hoover
was essentially
to destroy any black, progressive...
Third World movement in this country.
They put her in prison,
and her allies said,
"We're not gonna leave her in prison."
Her white allies said,
"We're not gonna leave her in prison."
And pulled her out of prison and got her
to Cuba. She's in Cuba right now.
And within the next five years,
something like, uh, 300 prisons
are in the planning stages.
This government has the intentions
of throwing more and more people
in prison.
Criminalization of Assata Shakur,
the use of the media to represent her
as a dangerous criminal.
And of course, in my own case,
where I was represented by the FBI
as being armed and dangerous.
The FBI has put
black militant Angela Davis
on its list
of the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives.
Then with Angela Davis,
the power of the black intellect...
One thing
that we have to talk about,
coming to grips with,
is this whole question of crime.
What does it mean
to be a criminal in this society?
That had to be broken up.
And in my case, Ronald Reagan
was the governor of California,
Richard Nixon was
the president of the US.
The whole apparatus of the state
was set up against me,
and they really meant to send me
to the death chamber
in order to make a point.
The actions of the FBI
in apprehending Angela Davis,
a rather remarkable, uh, story again...
The system tried
to put the sister on trial,
and the sister said,
"No, we puttin' you on trial."
Comes in, the big Afro,
she didn't go press her hair.
She was facing major time.
You know, most people,
they'd have got a nice little press.
You know? They'd have been
in there with little white gloves on,
praying to Jesus.
She came in like this.
And she devastated the prosecution
and walked out of there free.
But the question is
how do you get there?
Do you get there
by confrontation, violence?
Oh, was that the question you were asking?
So, I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama.
Uh, after the four young girls who were...
who lived very...
who lived...
One of them lived next door to me.
I was very good friends
with the sister of another one.
My sister was good friends
with all three of them.
My mother taught one of them in her class.
And they went down.
And what did they find? They found limbs
and heads just strewn all over the place.
I remember,
from the time I was very small,
I remember the sounds of bombs
exploding across the street.
Our house shaking.
I remember my father having to have guns
at his disposal at all times
because of the fact that at any moment
we might expect to be attacked.
I mean, that's why,
when someone asks me about violence, uh...
I just, uh...
I just find it incredible.
Because what it means is that
the person who's asking that question
has absolutely no idea
what black people have gone through,
what black people have experienced
in this country
since the time the first black person
was kidnapped from the shores of Africa.
And when you strip out
a whole generation of leadership,
running folk out the country,
killing folk, framing folk,
you will be vulnerable
to Bill Clinton or anybody else.
They'll do to you what they will.
There's a man going 'round
Taking names
He has taken my father's name
And it's left my heart in pain
There's a man going 'round
Taking names
Going 'round
Going 'round
An armed
neighborhood watch leader
saw Martin walking inside
a gated subdivision near Orlando.
He thought the 17-year-old
looked suspicious.
He's got his hand in his waistband.
And he's a black male.
These assholes,
they always get away.
- Are you following him?
- Yep.
We don't need you to.
Do you think he's yelling "help"?
- Yes.
- All right, what is your...
A deadly shooting in Sanford.
Police have the gun,
they've got the shooter,
but they have not arrested him.
armed with a gun,
followed this
quote, unquote suspicious kid
after the dispatcher told him not to.
They ended up on the ground in a fight,
and George Zimmerman
shot and killed Trayvon Martin.
The police could not arrest Zimmerman
because of this Florida law called
Stand Your Ground,
which says that you can kill someone
if you feel threatened.
Even though it was Zimmerman
who had pursued Martin
throughout the neighborhood with a gun.
Mr. Zimmerman felt that he,
in self-defense, needed to, uh...
to fire his weapon.
Not only was he not arrested,
but in court,
Zimmerman actually pleaded self-defense
and got off
under the Stand Your Ground law.
We, the jury,
find George Zimmerman not guilty.
That Stand Your Ground law
that was passed in Florida
played a huge role
in the Trayvon Martin tragedy
and this really ignited the movement
that we see today.
In the wake
of Trayvon Martin's death,
Florida's Stand Your Ground law
came into the spotlight.
How did this law not only get in place
in Florida, but around the country?
And all the fingers kept pointing
back to ALEC.
ALEC sounds like the name
of a high school lacrosse player
who just got baked
and wrecked his dad's Saab.
But incredibly, it's actually even worse.
- ALEC is a political lobbying group.
- ALEC is a political lobbying group.
- They write laws...
- They write laws...
- and give them to Republicans.
- and give them to Republicans.
- Stand Your Ground...
- Stand Your Ground...
- was written by ALEC.
- was written by ALEC.
ALEC is this private club,
and its members are
politicians and corporations.
But the real question is,
should politicians and corporations
be in the same private club?
Under the umbrella of ALEC
corporate members, uh, get to propose laws
to their political counterparts,
most of whom are Republicans.
So, through ALEC, corporations have
a huge say in our lawmaking.
And at ALEC task force meetings,
corporate lobbyists
secretly vote as equals with lawmakers
on bills that those lawmakers
then introduce
to become laws in our states.
ALEC is everywhere.
Roughly one in four state legislators
are members.
And I'm proud to stand with ALEC today.
And it's not hard to see why.
ALEC makes their jobs troublingly easy.
Here's their model
Electricity Freedom bill,
which at one point says,
"Be it therefore enacted,
that the State of repeals
the renewable energy mandate."
So, as long as you can remember
and spell the name of your state,
you can introduce legislation.
We've also seen ALEC bills introduced
where a lawmaker forgot
to take the ALEC letterhead off the bill.
Without remembering to take off
the ALEC letterhead
to try to distance the real role of ALEC
and ALEC corporations from those bills.
I'm just curious. Does it have...
Does the legislation have
some connection to ALEC?
Representative Atkins, I'm not sure why
we're pursuing this course of questioning.
This bill is my bill.
It's not ALEC's bill.
The reason I ask is because
earlier you passed out a handout
that says "Gottwalt" at the top,
and it says "Health Care Compact,"
and there's a logo
right in the middle of that page.
And I went to the ALEC website,
and there's exactly the same font,
the same size and the same logo.
I mean, literally, it's verbatim.
It's shocking to know
that ALEC has been around
for more than four decades now.
And it's even more startling
to see how it began.
ALEC has forged
a unique partnership
between state legislators and leaders
from the corporate and business community.
Corporations have influenced
laws for decades, through ALEC.
They want everybody to vote.
I don't want everybody to vote.
As a matter of fact, our leverage
in the elections quite candidly goes up
as the voting populace goes down.
Nearly every ALEC bill
benefits one of its corporate funders.
And the corporation Wal-Mart
was a long-standing member of ALEC
at the time that it adopted
the so-called Stand Your Ground law.
It's a law that created
an atmosphere where gun sales boomed.
Wal-Mart is the biggest seller
of long guns in the US,
has been the largest retailer
of bullets in the world.
So it's reasonable to think
that Wal-Mart benefited
from these Stand Your Ground laws
that ALEC pushed
that initially prevented the arrest
of the killer of Trayvon Martin, uh,
and was designed to prevent the arrest,
prosecution and conviction
of the killer of Trayvon Martin, including
through changing the jury instructions
to require that a jury be told
that someone like George Zimmerman
has a right to stand his ground,
but not that someone like Trayvon Martin
has a right to stand his ground
against someone like George Zimmerman
with a gun assailing him.
After the outcry over Stand Your Ground
and the Trayvon Martin tragedy...
Wal-Mart stepped out of ALEC.
It left ALEC, abandoned ALEC.
But the Wal-Mart family
continues to fund ALEC.
Other corporations
followed suit and stepped away from ALEC,
but many corporations
are still members, including...
Koch Industries,
State Farm Insurance,
PhRMA, which is the lobbying group
for the pharmaceutical industry.
ALEC has been supported
by the tobacco industry
as well as AT&T and Verizon.
And for nearly two decades,
one corporation was
Corrections Corporation of America.
Every day,
we serve our communities.
From small towns to large cities,
at more than 60 locations
across our country.
As the nation's fifth largest
correctional system,
we build, own and manage
secure correctional facilities.
CCA was the first
private prison corporation in the US.
It started as a small company,
in Tennessee, in 1983.
These folks started
making contracts with states.
And they had to protect their investments,
so the states were required
to keep these prisons filled
even if nobody was committing a crime.
And in the late '80s and early '90s,
this became a growth industry
unlike very few growth industries
in America's history.
Uh, it was absolutely
a model guaranteed to succeed.
And one of the ways we see that
is through the role of CCA within ALEC
to advance a series of bills.
All the legislation you could think of
that we fight so hard against,
"three strikes, you're out..."
Three strikes and you are out.
...mandatory minimum sentencing laws...
...serve at least 85% of their sentence.
...were the ones
they were putting out there
like on a premiere
pre-fixed dinner menu,
a steady influx of bodies
to generate the profit
that would go to the shareholders.
Through ALEC,
CCA became the leader in private prisons.
It's a multibillion-dollar business today
that gets rich off punishment.
We are America's leader
in partnership corrections.
We are CCA.
And so, through ALEC,
CCA had a hand in shaping crime policy
across the country,
including, not just prison privatization,
but the rapid increase in criminalization.
I think this accusation, you know,
quite frankly, is just false.
That somehow ALEC was in favor
of imprisoning a bunch of people, uh,
because of private prisons...
I think that's just, unfortunately,
one of these tactics they do on ALEC.
ALEC pushed forward a number of policies
to increase the number of people in prison
and to increase the sentences
of people who are in prison.
I'm trying to think how you address it.
It's hard to address something that's like
almost like folklore at this point.
They are not doing anything
to really clean up that past
or to address the real consequences
for real people
of the extreme policies they've pushed.
In fact, it doesn't talk about
its past history.
I mean, it's hard for me
to even understand, uh,
what they're even talking about.
A lot of it.
CCA directly benefited,
directly profited from its investment
in ALEC,
the American Legislative Exchange Council.
And the American people, in many ways,
were harmed by these policies
due to the mass incarceration
of people, particularly people of color.
Look, right now our position
is that we want less people in prison.
I don't think that helps the private
prison industry, quite frankly.
I think myself and the lawmakers,
we're just always looking for better,
innovative ways to run government.
I think that's one thing
as conservatives, who believe in
the free market and limited government,
we pride ourselves on.
We're supposed to be
the party of innovation.
Another bill
that ALEC innovated was SB 1070.
CCA was on the ALEC task force
that pushed that law
that gave police
the right to stop anyone
they thought looked like an immigrant.
This law filled
immigration detention facilities,
and it directly benefited
an ALEC member, CCA.
CCA could potentially reap
huge financial benefits from SB 1070,
since 1070 was designed to lock up
a lot more people in Arizona
on federal immigration charges.
An influx of undocumented
immigrants, many of them children...
In Arizona, Corrections
Corporation of America, or CCA,
holds the federal contract
to house detained immigrants.
It's worth more than $11 million
every month.
Our, uh, immigration facilities
are a disgrace.
There are families kept there,
uh, in horrible conditions.
They're called "detention facilities,"
but they're really prisons for immigrants.
Calling them "detention facility"
doesn't make them not a prison.
They're a prison.
They just have a different name.
We're having what some people are saying
is a creation of a "crimmigration" system.
That there's the merger
of our immigration enforcement
and our law enforcement system.
And so, that's some of the same things
that were used in the war on drugs,
are now migrating to other populations.
You heard it, uh, with Donald Trump,
not about blacks but with Mexicans.
You know,
"Oh, well, they're rapists, murderers.
Oh, and by the way,
some of 'em may be good people."
Oh, boy. You know, where do you start
on something like that?
In late 2010, CCA left ALEC
after a big NPR story came out
accusing ALEC of pushing SB 1070.
ALEC doesn't do anything on immigration.
No. No which way. Not to the right,
not to the left. Nothing.
So, I don't really have anything
for you on that one. Sorry.
ALEC has recently made
what I would describe as a PR move
to say that it's gonna be right on crime.
That it's gonna be on the right side
of criminal justice policy and reform.
That move comes in the wake of its loss
of a massive number of corporations.
What ultimately happened is our board
looked at the issues that ALEC worked on
and decided
that we don't do social issues,
we're focused on economic issues.
We jettisoned basically almost
all of our legislation that was pre-2007.
So we basically...
Fresh slate going forward.
A fresh start going forward.
This industry knows that it's dying...
and is actually preparing
for the next thing.
And the animating factors that have
led to such a system like bail.
We're always gonna see
new permutations of a cancer. Right?
And that's what this is.
And over the last couple years,
since 2008,
we've been involved really
in a wholesale reform effort,
where 31 states have now adopted
positive changes on sentencing,
on parole and probation reforms.
ALEC has a concerted effort to privatize
almost every aspect of government,
but we had no idea
that they were also aiming
to try to privatize probation and parole.
ALEC is no longer concerned
about CCA and CCA's interest.
CCA no longer has
a seat at the table with ALEC,
so it doesn't have a financial interest
in advancing policies
that increase the profits of CCA.
But the American Bail Coalition
is still part of ALEC.
Today, our state penitentiaries
are filled to the brim
and overflowing with inmates.
When I think
of systems of oppression,
uh, historically, in this country
and elsewhere, they're durable.
And they tend to reinvent themselves,
and they do it right under your nose.
One of the things they want to do
is GPS monitoring.
Having a home confinement system
for juveniles, I think, is a great thing
'cause it forces the parents
to take responsibility and step up.
Prisons would be
more embedded in our homes.
Some of them would be monitored
on GPS and things like that.
So folks won't be locked up in a cage,
in a cell, inside of an institution,
but they will have ankle bracelets on.
They'll have wrist bracelets on.
Would that help to solve
the prison overcrowding problem?
And what I worry about is that
we fall asleep at the wheel and wake up,
and realize that we may not
have people in prisons
in rural communities all over America,
but that we're incarcerating people
right in their communities.
That is what I see,
what a lot of the focus is on,
is taking people from prison,
putting them in community corrections
parole and probation,
and really investing in those programs.
How much progress is it really,
if communities of color are still under
perpetual surveillance and control,
but now there's a private company
making money off the GPS monitor,
rather than the person
being locked in a literal cage?
If we can help you...
save crime victims
in your legislative district...
you don't mind me making a dollar.
And so, ALEC continues
to be a body that,
while it may have some
really strong rhetoric
on why it supports
crime reform now, suddenly,
uh, sort of out of the blue,
it actually has real financial interests.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.
If you're in the prison business,
uh, you don't want reform.
You may say you do, but you don't.
And there are a bunch of people out there
desperately trying to make sure
that that prison population
does not drop one person,
because their economic model needs that.
Prison industrial complex refers
to the system of mass incarceration
and companies that profit
from mass incarceration.
That includes
both operators of private prisons,
which get a lot of attention,
as well as a vast sea of vendors.
From SECURUS Technologies,
that supplies telephone services,
that made $114 million
in profits last year...
Those calls to family and friends are
costing a pretty penny in state prisons.
They inflate the price that they charge
the inmate and the inmate's family.
For example, in Maryland,
if you earn minimum wage,
you'd have to work an hour and a half
to afford a ten minute phone call.
There's also Aramark,
one of the big food service providers.
In more than one state,
they have been accused
of having maggots in the food
that they've served.
Corizon Healthcare provides healthcare
services in 28 different states.
Multimillion-dollar contracts
for this service.
Huge incentives given to contractors
for very long contracts,
so it's actually a disincentive
to provide the service,
because you're going to be paid anyway.
One of the reasons it's so difficult
to talk about mass incarceration
in this country, and to question it,
is because it has become
so heavily monetized.
A little company called UNICOR,
that does $900 million
in business annually.
How do they do it?
Also, prison labor.
Partnerships between
correctional industries
and private business
are a rapidly growing segment of
a multibillion dollar industry in America.
We talk about sweatshops and we,
you know, we beat our fists at people
overseas for exploiting poor, free labor,
but we don't look that it's happening
right here at home every day.
You have corporations
who are now invested
in this free labor.
It's all over.
It's from sports, uniform,
hats, Microsoft, Boeing.
Federal inmates are making
the guidance systems
for the Patriot missile system.
JCPenney jeans are made in Tennessee.
Victoria's Secret.
Anderson flooring wood products
are made in Georgia.
It's always been Idaho potatoes.
They're planted, grown, harvested,
packed and shipped by inmates.
Victoria's Secret and JCPenney
switched suppliers
once their ties came to light.
Simply put,
corporations are operating in prisons
and profiting from punishment.
Prison industries have gotten so big
that it's very difficult now
to try and do away with them.
Too much money out there,
too many lawmakers that support it
because they're being lobbied.
So, the public's got to stand up
and take it back.
It'll never get done if they don't.
And I can see it's all about cash
And they got the nerve
To hunt down my ass
And treat me like a criminal
Yeah, it is what it is
And that's how it go
Get treated like a criminal
If crime is all you know
Get greeted like a nigga
If a nigga's all you show
A public enemy
That's in the eye of the scope
The night of his arrest,
Kalief Browder was walking home from
a party with his friends in the Bronx,
when he was stopped by police.
Kalief was, um, charged with a crime,
a really petty crime,
that it turns out he didn't commit.
Then they said,
"We're gonna take you to the precinct,
and most likely,
we'll let you go home."
But then, I never went home.
- They told you that you could post bail.
- Yes, that's correct.
- $10,000.
- Yes.
- And, of course...
- I couldn't make that.
- Hmm.
- My family couldn't pay it.
There are thousands of people
in jails right this moment
that are sitting there for no other reason
than because they're too poor to get out!
We have a criminal justice system
that treats you better
if you're rich and guilty
than if you're poor and innocent.
Wealth, not culpability, shapes outcomes.
I think what most Americans think of,
'cause they've watched so many
courtroom dramas and things like that,
they think that the criminal justice
system is about judges and juries.
Well, that's really
stopped being the case.
This system simply cannot exist
if everyone decides to go to trial.
If everybody insisted on a trial,
the whole system would shut down.
What typically happens
is the prosecutor says,
"You know, you can make a deal
and we'll give you three years,
or you can go to trial
and we'll get you 30.
So, you want to take that chance,
feel free."
Nobody in the hood goes to trial.
97% of those people
who were locked up
have plea bargain.
And that is one of the worst violations
of human rights
that you can imagine in the United States.
We have, in this country,
people pleading guilty
to crimes they didn't commit,
just because the thought of going to jail
for what the mandatory minimums are
is so excruciating.
Kalief Browder decided,
"I'm not gonna take the plea."
So, you had to choose between
being in prison for up to 15 years
and going home right then by admitting
you did a crime you didn't do.
I felt like I was done wrong.
I felt like something needed to be done.
I felt like something needs to be said.
If I just cop out and say that I did it,
nothing's gonna be done about it.
I didn't do it.
No justice is served.
What you're not taught is that
if you exercise that right to a trial,
and you are convicted,
we will punish you more.
The courts basically punished him
for having the audacity
to not take a plea deal
and to want to take it to trial.
In that time, those three years
that he was sitting there
and not being charged for anything,
that's when, um, the mental health issue
started to deteriorate
and he started to get into fights.
After a while,
I kept hearing the same thing
from the whole three years,
and I just learned to cope
with just being in there,
and that was rough.
I already knew...
After a while, I just gave up hope.
Three years on Rikers Island,
two of that in solitary confinement,
and he was a child, a baby.
You miss everything.
Everything about being home.
The fresh air, your family,
certain events. You want to be home.
When they give you an offer
to go home right then and there,
it's like, "I want to go home,"
but then you know you didn't do it,
so you don't wanna plea,
take the plea and say that you do it,
it's not right.
I was scared all day because I didn't know
where it would come from.
I don't know where any harm would come.
Kalief suffered through
so many beatings,
both by the people he was locked up with
and the guards,
he ended up attempting suicide
on several occasions.
After almost three years in jail,
waiting his trial,
they dropped all the charges,
and he was set free.
He spent two years
in an environment that
people have argued
is designed to break you within 30 days.
I mean, I can't really tell you
what's next, but...
This happens every day.
Two years after
his release from jail,
Kalief Browder hanged himself
at his home in the Bronx.
He was 22 years old.
If I would've just pled guilty,
then my story would've never been heard.
Nobody would've took the time
to listen to me.
I'd have been just another criminal.
Prison industrial complex,
the system, the industry,
it is a beast.
It eats black and Latino people
for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
We didn't even think about
who gets the jobs
of spending time with these folks.
Otherwise, we'd want
social workers and teachers.
We'd want people
with understanding of human behavior.
And we do the opposite.
You become numb.
I think that's what jail does to humans.
That immediate dehumanization
and sensory deprivation
that nobody can really understand
unless they live through it.
So the last 14 years,
my son has not had any human contact,
other than to be handcuffed by an officer.
Uh, he doesn't even have
a window in his cell,
and that's one thing
that really disturbs me.
It troubles me.
I just couldn't believe it.
I couldn't believe
that we would even have such
an architectural design in our country.
I never realized that there was
prison cells built like that.
Human beings are not born
to be locked up and encaged.
Most people wouldn't keep
their pets in the kind of conditions
that we keep people in.
Prisons and jails have become warehouses,
in the sense that, um,
where we've moved as a society is that
it's not enough
to just deprive you of your liberty.
Um, but we want to punish you, too.
Most of the society, um,
don't understand what it means
to be behind those big gates
and those barb wires.
Once somebody is arrested
and convicted, they're gone.
Nobody particularly cares about them.
In many ways, the prison systems
are sort of in the dark.
So it makes it a lot easier,
you know, cognitively and emotionally.
It makes it a lot easier to say,
"Send people there."
If you look at the whole problem,
you say, "What are we doing?"
We have too many laws locking
too many people up for too many things,
giving them sentences that are too harsh,
putting them in prison,
and while they're in prison,
doing very little, if anything,
to rehabilitate them
so that they can reenter civil society
when they get out.
And then when they get out, we shun them.
Over 40,000 collateral consequences
for people that come through
our criminal justice system.
It's that question,
"Have you been convicted of a felony?"
that appears on the job application.
In some cases, it can affect
your access to student loans.
They can't get many business licenses,
food stamps if they're hungry.
...private rentals in regards to housing.
It's that question
that appears on life insurance.
The scarlet letter follows you
for the rest of your life in this country.
In March of 2015,
we had tens of thousands of people
come to Selma
to celebrate the 50th anniversary
of the crossing
of the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
And very few of those people realized
that nearly 30% of the black male
population of Alabama today
has permanently lost the right to vote
as a result of a criminal conviction.
If you do something wrong,
you should pay it back,
and then move forward with your life.
But yet, in America,
there's absolutely zero closure.
We actually tell American citizens,
when they pay back their debt to society,
their citizenship
will still be denied from them.
So many aspects of the old Jim Crow
are suddenly legal again
once you've been branded a felon.
And so it seems that in America,
we haven't so much ended racial caste,
but simply redesigned it.
You act like the change
Tryna put me in chains
Don't act like you saving us
It's still the same
Man don't act like I made it up
You blaming us
Let's keep it one hundred
You gave the name to us
We still in chains
We still in chains
You put the shame on us
We are now in an era
where Democrats and Republicans alike
have decided
that it's not in their interest anymore
to maintain the prison system as it is.
Now, all of a sudden,
Hillary Clinton is meeting
with Black Lives Matter activists,
and talking about it.
It's time to change our approach
and end the era of mass incarceration.
She's made a major address on it.
We will reform our criminal justice system
from end to end
and rebuild trust between law enforcement
and the communities they serve.
President Obama going to prison, you know,
as the first sitting President
to ever visit a prison.
We've got an opportunity to make
a difference at a time when
overall violent crime rates
have been dropping
at the same time
as incarcerations last year
dropped for the first time in 40 years.
And conservatives, who were always seen
or understood within the narrative
as being the tough-on-crime ones, um,
have now embraced justice reform.
It's very, uh, man bites dog.
You see, Texas used to spend billions
locking people up for minor offenses.
We shifted our focus
to diversionary programs,
like community supervision.
We got to ask ourselves,
"Do we feel comfortable with people
taking the lead of a conversation,
in a moment
where it feels right politically?"
Historically, when one
looks at efforts to create reforms,
they inevitably lead to more repression.
So, if we leave it up to them,
what they're gonna do
is they're gonna tinker with the system.
They're not gonna do the change
that we need to see
as a country to get us out of this mess.
And they're certainly not
gonna go backwards
and fix the mess that they have made,
because they're not ready
to make that admission.
But as a country, I don't think we've
ever been ready to make the admission
that we have steamrolled
through entire communities
and multiple generations
when you think about things like
slavery and Jim Crow,
and all the other systems of oppression
that have led us to where we are today.
So much fun! I love it, I love it!
We havin' a good time?
Fuck you! Fuck you!
Fuck you! Fuck you!
Don't you dare do that!
Don't you dare do that!
Knock the crap out of 'em,
would you? Seriously!
Get him out.
Get him out of here!
In the good old days,
this doesn't happen,
because they used to treat them
very, very rough.
And when they protested once,
you know,
they would not do it again so easily.
I'd like to punch him
in the face, I'll tell you.
I love the old days.
You know what they used to do
to guys like that in a place like this?
They'd be carried out
on a stretcher, folks.
Yeah, it's true.
Knock the hell out of that mouth.
The next time we see him,
we might have to kill him.
In the good old days,
they'd rip him out of that seat so fast...
- Shut up. Shut the hell up.
- No, fuck no.
No, I will not shut the hell up.
Why are you even here?
Get the fuck out of here, man.
Get out of here.
- Be respectful!
- I care about my son's future!
In the good old days...
law enforcement
acted a lot quicker than this.
A lot quicker.
And we are going
to enforce the law,
and Americans should remember that,
if we're going to have law and order.
I am...
the law and order candidate.
We thought... I mean,
they called the end of slavery "jubilee."
We thought we were done then.
And then you had 100 years
of Jim Crow, terror and lynching.
Dr. King, these guys come on the scene,
Ella Jo Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer,
we get the bills passed to vote,
and then they break out the handcuffs.
Label you felon,
you can't vote or get a job.
So, we don't know
what the next iteration of this will be,
but it will be. It will be.
And we will have to be vigilant.
I'mma prison cell
Six by nine
Livin' hell, stone wall
Metal bars for the gods in jail
My nickname, the can
The slammer, the big house
I'm the place many fear
'Cause there's no way out
The Bureau of Justice reported
That one in three young, black males
is expected to go to jail or prison
during his lifetime,
which is
an unbelievably shocking statistic.
Black men account
for roughly 6.5% of the US population.
They make up 40.2%
of the prison population.
We now have more African Americans
under criminal supervision
than all the slaves back in the 1850s.
The prison industrial complex, uh...
relies historically
on the inheritances of slavery.
The 13th Amendment says,
"No involuntary servitude except for those
who have been duly convicted of a crime."
So once you've been convicted of a crime,
you are in essence a slave of the state.
The stroke of a pen is not self-enforcing.
And so, while the 13th Amendment is hailed
as this great milestone for freedom,
and abolitionists celebrate,
and this is the end of a lifelong quest,
the reality is much more problematic.
Well, once that clause is inserted
in there, it becomes a tool.
It's there.
It's embedded in the structure.
And for those who seek to use
this criminality clause as a tool,
it can become a pretty powerful one,
because it's privileged.
It's in the constitution,
it's the supreme law of the land.
Throughout American history,
African Americans
have repeatedly been controlled
through systems of racial
and social control that appear to die,
but then are reborn in new form,
tailored to the needs and constraints
of the time.
You know, after the collapse of slavery,
a new system was born,
convict leasing,
which was a new form of slavery.
And once convict leasing faded away,
a new system was born,
a Jim Crow system,
that relegated African Americans
to a permanent second-class status.
And here we are,
decades after the collapse
of the old Jim Crow,
and a new system
has been born again in America.
A system of mass incarceration
that, once again,
strips millions of poor people,
overwhelmingly poor people of color,
of the very rights supposedly won
in the civil rights movement.
And so instead of talking about it,
we just tried to move on.
After the Civil Rights Act was passed
and after the civil rights laws,
we tried to play it off.
Because we didn't deal with it,
that narrative
of racial difference continued.
And it turned into this presumption
of dangerousness and guilt
that follows every black and brown person
wherever they are.
You need to get out
of the street immediately.
Get out of the way!
This is St. Louis County Police.
Stay off the roadway.
Ferguson was not simply
about Mike Brown.
It was also this pattern of mass
criminalization and mass incarceration.
Back off. Back off.
There was an average of three warrants
per household in Ferguson.
And so people rose up
because they understood
that they were also enemies of the state,
seen as enemies of the state.
The communities in which black people live
really become occupied territories,
and black people have become seen
as, um, enemy combatants, right,
who don't have any rights,
and who can be stopped and frisked
and, you know, arrested
and detained and questioned
and killed with impunity.
If we were to look at
the larger-scale riots that we know of
in, you know, our recent history,
from Rodney King,
to the Detroit riot in 1967,
the Newark riot in 1967,
Harlem riot in 1964,
Watts in 1965.
Every single one of those riots
was a result of police brutality.
That is the common thread.
- Fight back! Fight back!
- Fist up! Fist up!
It would be a mistake to say,
as many do in the current context,
that if you're against the police,
then you're against law and order.
These are hardworking civil servants
putting their lives on the line every day.
And that's true.
People who join the police do so,
you know, to do these sorts of things.
But if you dismiss black complaints
of mistreatment by police
as being completely rooted
in our modern context,
then you're missing the point completely.
There has never been
a period in our history
where the law and order branch
of the state has not operated against
the freedoms, the liberties,
the options, the choices
that have been available for
the black community, generally speaking.
And to ignore that racial heritage,
to ignore that historical context,
means that you can't have
an informed debate
about the current state
of blacks and police relationship today,
'cause this didn't just appear
out of nothing.
This is the product
of a centuries-long historical process.
And to not reckon with that
is to shut off solutions.
We may have lost the sheets
of the Ku Klux Klan,
but, clearly, when you see
black kids being shot down...
then, obviously,
we didn't cut out this cancer.
For many of us, you know,
whose families
lived through this,
who are extensions
of this kind of oppression,
we don't need to see pictures
to understand what's going on.
It's really to kind of, like,
speak to the masses
who have been ignoring this
for the majority of their life.
But I also think there's trouble
of just showing,
you know,
black bodies as dead bodies, too.
Too much of anything
becomes unhealthy, unuseful.
I think they need to be seen,
if the family is okay with it.
It wasn't until things were made visual
in the civil rights movement,
that we really saw, uh,
folks come out
and being shocked into movement.
You have to shock people
into paying attention.
But there's a kind of historical
trajectory that we can trace here, um,
through media and technology.
We went back to, um, the slavery era,
when people were writing autobiographies
or slave narratives.
Later in the 19th century,
when people began to use photographs
and they showed images.
There's a famous image
of slave Gordon and his back,
and you can see just this
kind of lattice of scar tissue
that is evidence of the whippings
that he received.
Or the images of lynchings,
which white people produced.
The murder of Emmett Till
was really thought of as being
one of the primary catalysts
for the civil rights movement.
The willingness of his mother
to have an open-casket funeral.
Hundreds and hundreds
of black folks filed past
and see this young boy
who had been killed
by white supremacists in the South.
To publish those photographs
in black publications
so the entire black world, like
our Facebook or our Twitter now, right?
So that the whole black world
could see what had happened.
In the 1950s, Dr. King
and the civil rights movement
used television in this way.
"Look, this is what segregation
looks like.
These are dogs attacking children.
These are people being fire hosed."
Searching for the medium of technology,
that will confirm your experience
such that your basic humanity
can be recognized.
The difference now is
somebody can hold up one of these,
get what's going on.
They can put it on YouTube,
and the whole world has to deal with it.
That's what's new.
It's not the protest.
It's not the brutality.
It's the fact that we can force
a conversation about it.
We have been consistently been murdered
as a result of police aggression.
They generally would excuse it
by calling us criminals.
When they was killing Oscar Grant...
When they got to Eric Garner...
I can't breathe.
I can't breathe.
I can't breathe.
I can't breathe.
I can't breathe.
I can't breathe.
Everyone pointed out
that he was saying,
"I can't breathe.
I can't breathe."
But the sentences before that were,
"Why are you always stopping me?
Why is it, day in and day out,
week in and week out, you're stopping me?"
And that, I think, is hugely important.
When we think about the children
who were killed at the hands of the state,
I think about Tamir Rice at 12 years old,
and the way that he was killed,
you know, it hits my heart.
Go ahead and take
your seat belt off. Stop. Stop!
You good?
- Roll on your stomach. Now!
- Stop fighting!
- I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
- Oh, shit.
He shot me, man. I was shot.
He didn't do shit.
You didn't.
- I'm losing breath.
- Fuck your breath.
Stay with me.
We got pulled over
for a busted taillight in the back.
Police violence,
that isn't the problem
in and of itself.
It's reflection of a much larger,
brutal system
of racial and social control
known as mass incarceration,
which authorizes
this kind of police violence.
That's why, for me,
the brilliance of Black Lives Matter...
They have a distributed leadership model.
You can't find their address.
I mean, Black Lives Matter
is not a stoppable phenomenon,
by a bullet or anything else.
And so, there's hope there
because of that.
Having people truly understand
that when black lives matter,
everybody's life matters,
including every single person
that enters this criminal justice system
and this prison industrial complex.
It's not just even about
only black lives, right?
It's about changing the way
this country understands human dignity.
That's what, really,
this Black Lives Matter moment is about.
This question of whose life
do we recognize as valuable?
The opposite of criminalization
is humanization.
That's the one thing I hope
that people will understand.
It's about rehumanizing us,
as a people,
and us, right, as a people,
all of us.
The system of mass incarceration
has grown,
and sprawled and developed an appetite
that is gobbling up people
in communities of all colors.
But if it hadn't been for the fact
that it began with a group of people
defined by race,
that we as a nation
have learned not to care about,
we wouldn't be talking about
two million people behind bars today.
People say all the time,
"I don't understand how people
could've tolerated slavery.
How could they have made peace with that?
How could people have gone to a lynching
and participated in that?
How did people make sense
of the segregation,
this white and colored-only drinking...
That's so crazy.
If I was living at that time, I would
have never tolerated anything like that."
And the truth is, we are living
at this time, and we are tolerating it.
Southern leaves
Southern trees we hung from
Barren souls
Heroic songs unsung
Forgive them, Father
They know this knot is undone
Tied with the rope
That my grandmother dyed
Pride of the pilgrims
Affect lives of millions
Since slave day
Separatin' fathers from children
Institution ain't just a building
But a method
Of having black and brown bodies
Fill them
We ain't seen
As human beings with feelings
Will the US ever be us, Lord willing?
For now we know the new Jim Crow
The stop search and arrest our souls
Police and policies
Patrol philosophies of control
A cruel hand taking hold
We let go to free them
So we can free us
America's moment to come to Jesus
Freedom come
Hold on
Won't be long
Won't be long
Freedom come
Freedom come
Hold on
Hold on
Won't be long
Won't be long
The cage bird sings
For freedom in the ring
Black bodies bein' lost
In the American Dream
Blood of black being a pastoral scene
Slavery's still alive
Check Amendment 13
Now whips and chains are subliminal
Instead of nigga
They use the word criminal
Sweet land of liberty
Incarcerated country
Shot me with your Reagan
And now you wanna Trump me
Prison is a business
America's the company
Investing in injustice, fear
And long suffering
We're staring in the face
Of hate again
The same hate they say
Will make America great again
No consolation prize
For the dehumanized
For America to rise
Is a matter of black lives
And we gonna free them
So we can free us
America's moment to come to Jesus
Freedom come
Hold on
Won't be long
Won't be long
Freedom come
Freedom come
Hold on
Hold on
Won't be long
Won't be long
Won't be long
Freedom come
Hold on
Hold on
Won't be long
Won't be long
Freedom come
Freedom come
Hold on
Won't be long
Won't be long
Won't be long
Freedom come
Hold on
Hold on
Won't be long
Won't be long
Won't be long
Freedom come
Freedom come
Hold on
Won't be long
Won't be long
Won't be long
Freedom come
Freedom come
Hold on
Hold on
Won't be long
Hold on
Won't be long
Freedom come
Freedom come
Hold on
Won't be long
Freedom come
Freedom come
Freedom come
Hold on
Hold on
Won't be long
Won't be long
Won't be long
Oh, freedom
Won't be long