Local celebrities including Black Thought (The Roots), Meek Mill, Patty Jackson and Bernard Hopkins, as well as national celebrities like Danny Glover are running a campaign called “Familiar Faces Against Mass Incarceration.” Wow. Seriously, I never thought I’d see something like this. The campaign starts here over the weekend and the national campaign will roll out in December. You’ll see ads in movie theaters and on popular reality TV shows. The ads seek to bring attention to issues surrounding mass incarceration, profiteering in the prison industry, and the school to prison pipeline.

privateprison7152011Obviously this issue is one near and dear to my heart. It is pretty rare though to see it tackled like this. I’m used to seeing ads for cancer research before movies, or maybe a campaign to stop famine in some part of the world, but often the mass incarceration issue festers in the shadows. People suffer in silence. It is very nice to see some celebrity attention on this issue and seeing it form into an actual cause and campaign. It’s one of those issues where I often feel like a fringe lunatic amongst other fairly liberal minded people because they have no experience with the system and there’s a lot of fear surrounding crime. Having some mainstream star power back the issue and bring it to living rooms across the country should really help bring it out of the dark and into the light.

I am not so naïve to think a few celeb ads will cause a sea change tomorrow, but I do think it will make a difference. It shows that it’s not a fringe issue; radicals are not the only people interested in or against mass incarceration. With any luck, viewpoints will slowly change. The same thing has happened around marijuana legalization. This issue was once relegated to the “fringe lunatics,” and if you came out in favor you were instantly labeled a pothead and a druggie. Now, more and more mainstream people back legalization and national attitudes are changing as a result. This small step leaves me hopeful that the horrors of mass incarceration that I see everyday will slowly recede.

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