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Hope Deferred Doesn’t Make the Heart Well
November 19 – December 02, 2020
The Other Side

tyrone and ivy

2020 is one for the records with a pandemic of monumental proportions, economic depression, and continuous racial injustice. Add to these three, a chaotic presidential election that so far has only accomplished to further separate the country into red and blue states. I dare say, people are more than happy to put this year into the rearview mirror.

Like the rest of the nation, I am unable or unwilling to tune-out the unrelenting news cycle of COVID-19 updates, social distancing, virtual learning, Anthony Fauci, unemployment numbers, police brutality, and election diatribe. It’s a toxic feed of noise generating mental health issues.

The choice between Biden and Trump was likened to lite beer and malt liquor. Neither are healthy for you, but one has the capacity to paralyze you. Both candidates mentioned criminal justice reform. Unfortunately, reform has become another political football tossed into the arena of promises that never pass the goalpost.

Every one has their own preferences and priorities, but for the two million human beings incarcerated in America, the opportunity to reunite with their family was and continues to remain our first choice and issue number one.

When we speak of prison reform, many include the impact of the crack epidemic in the late 1980s and early 1990s, which resulted in doubling the prison population to 2.2 million. Policies generated to respond to the epidemic, including keeping people incarcerated, has left the American taxpayer a $80 billion bill. On a good note, public sentiment has shifted away from zero tolerance. At the same time there has been antipathy toward anything that could be portrayed as being soft on crime from all sides. 

While Presidents Obama’s clemency imitative commuted the sentence of 1,696 men and women, this was only a small fraction of the 24,000 people incarcerated in the Federal Bureau of Prisons who sought clemency. To date, Donald Trump has commuted a mere 20 people.
There initiatives focus on low-grade, non-violent drug offenders, while turning a deaf ear to long term prisoners. Why is this an important issue?
Biden and Trumps’ criminal justice reform plans only effect federal prisoners. There initiatives focus on low-grade, non-violent drug offenders, while turning a deaf ear to long term prisoners. Why is this an important issue? According to statistics, older prisoners are the least likely to re-offend - - inmates in their mid-fifties often age out of criminal behavior.

While presidential actions affect those in federal prisons, state prisons comprise the majority of the nation’s inmates. To his credit, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, has paroled more lifers than any other Maryland governor in the past 30 years. 

On the national level, Biden’s justice reform platform is hopeful, but I have heard it before. Hogan’s actions make me hopeful, but after thirty years of hope, hope deferred doesn’t make the heart well.

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