NFL Players Coalition, Thank You but I Have One Small Suggestion
Why reform should include so-called “violent” criminals too
This letter is to the “Players Coalition members, specifically Doug Baldwin, Anquan Boldin, Malcolm Jenkins and Benjamin Watson.
First, thank you so much for lending your celebrity to the cause of Criminal Justice Reform! I am a formerly incarcerated criminal justice reform activist and I can’t tell you how much of a difference it makes when people of your stature lend your voices to the cause.
Regardless of if you listen or ignore me, I want you to understand that I will support and fight for the reforms you suggested, they are good ideas and I hope President Trump will take them seriously.
That said, with respect, I have just one plea, as you move forward with this campaign, please don’t limit your call for clemency and mercy to just those people convicted of a nonviolent offense.
Non-Violence Sounds Great But What If It Is An Inaccurate and Counterproductive Label?
So, three times in your call to President Trump, you mentioned that you wanted relief but only for people sentenced for a non-violent crime (here is one example):
I certainly understand why this would seem to buttress the case for clemency for many of the folks you are fighting for. But, there are real problems with endorsing the distinction between violent and nonviolent criminals.
First, violence is often a political distinction. Many crimes which we would not consider to be violent are labeled violent in statutes. For instance, a getaway driver could be charged, in many jurisdictions, with manslaughter or as an accessory to murder if one of his co-conspirators shot someone during the commission of a robbery.
More recently, we have seen examples of where people who were simply present, or part of the chain of agency, when someone else overdosed being charged with a violent crime. Very often, we have seen online crimes being labeled as violent crimes.