Convener’s Corner | May 2016

May 26, 2016

An excellent and timely article from Illinois Federal Public Defender MiAngel Cody. “But the Legislation Doesn’t Go Far Enough — Its Time to Check Our Unincarcerated Privilege in the Conversation About Sentencing Reform.” Huff Post Politics, May 24, 2016

Toward the end of her article Cody stresses, “As the unincarcerated, we should be acutely aware of our privilege. Do I think the sentencing reform bills are perfect? No. However, I am not in prison. As a federal defender, I’ve defended hundreds of cases. An imprisoned client has never called me and said, “Hey, Ms. Cody. Although that new law would free me, it doesn’t go far enough; so I am going to just sit in prison until better legislation comes along.” Sentencing reform is not simply impressive bipartisan politics blog fodder or robust intellectual conversation. Sentencing reform is a moral imperative, particularly for the thousands of melanated bodies disproportionately over sentenced during America’s addiction to incarceration. There are prisoners like Tyrie who are overserving time. Like Tyrie, they are disproportionately African American. Life Tyrie, they would directly benefit from sentencing reform. Their freedom must be an indispensable, non-negotiated starting point … Not one opponent of S.2123 or H.R. 3713 has volunteered to switch places with Tyrie or the thousands of prisoners like him until better legislation comes along. A privileged critique that does not begin with the swift decarceration of the unfairly imprisoned ignores their bondage at best and perpetuates it most probably. I refuse to entertain the “does the bill go far enough” conversation until Tyrie and the thousands like him are free. I encourage leaders in the African American community, our representatives in the Congressional Black Caucus, our defenders and allies to #freethe5000.”

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