There are fundamentally two ways you can experience the police in America: [One is] as the people you call when there’s a problem, the nice man in uniform who pats a toddler’s head and has an easy smile for the old lady as she buys her coffee. For others, the police are the people who are called on them. They are the ominous knock on the door, the sudden flashlight in the face, the barked orders. Depending on who you are, the sight of an officer can produce either a warm sense of safety and contentment or a plummeting feeling of terror.
I think our police are excellent, probably because I have not done anything that has occasioned being beaten up by these good men.
A lot is said by the fact that you are unlikely to listen to an entire album by an African American rapper without coming across the word police.
The state calls its own violence “law,” but that of the individual “crime.”
Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.
If we were really tough on crime, we’d try to save our children from the desperation and deprivation that leave them primed for a life of crime.
Most people imagine that the explosion in the U.S. prison population during the past twenty-five years reflects changes in crime rates. . . . Yet it has been changes in our laws — particularly the dramatic increases in the length of prison sentences — that have been responsible for the growth of our prison system, not increases in crime.
Most incarcerated women — nearly two-thirds — are in prison for nonviolent, low-level drug crimes or property crimes. . . . One of the first incarcerated women I ever met was a young mother who was serving a long prison sentence for writing checks to buy her three young children Christmas gifts without sufficient funds in her account. Like a character in a Victor Hugo novel, she tearfully explained her heartbreaking tale to me. I couldn’t accept the truth of what she was saying until I checked her file and discovered that she had, in fact, been convicted and sentenced to over ten years in prison for writing five checks, including three to Toys “R” Us. None of the checks was for more than $150.
There is far too much law for those who can afford it and far too little for those who cannot.
We got a justice system where two people can do the exact same crime, in the exact same place, at the exact same time, and get a different sentence. . . . The American justice system should be like Walmart. . . . “Hey, if you can find a lighter sentence, we’ll match it!”
The faults of the burglar are the qualities of the financier.
Our crime against criminals is that we treat them as villains.
It’s hard to imagine what 2.3 million [U.S. prisoners] look like as a group. It’s hard to imagine that every one of those 2.3 million has their own story. Those stories aren’t always pretty and sometimes they are pretty ugly, but they are stories, and stories remind us what it is to be human — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Thousands of youth are making the same mistakes every day. But . . . none of our children are born that way. And when they get that way, they aren’t lost for good. That’s why I’m asking you to envision a world where men and women aren’t held hostage to their pasts, where misdeeds and mistakes don’t define you for the rest of your life. In an era of record incarcerations and a culture of violence, we can learn to love those who no longer love themselves.
No sin is so light that it may be overlooked; no sin is so heavy that it may not be repented of.