The House I Live In
Eugene Jarecki’s documentary The House I Live In has been admired for telling the heart-wrenching stories of many on the front lines of the longstanding U.S. “war on drugs” — officers, judges, inmates and their families. Filmed in over twenty states, it captures the breadth of incarceration by the U.S., the world’s largest jailer, and the depth of human rights violations involved. The film won the U.S. documentary prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
Brutal deaths at the hands of police officers have more recently grabbed national attention, but this film reminds us that in carrying on the drug war, courts and corrections systems have long applied policies unjust and unwise. The results: for comparatively mild offenses, mass numbers of people have served hugely disproportionate sentences. Their own and their families’ lives have been disrupted and the public has paid high costs for a war on drugs that has failed. The film recognizes drug abuse as a matter of public health and underlines the tragic errors of framing it mainly as a law-enforcement issue. We have seen a beginning of early release and amnesty for certain federal prisoners serving unduly long sentences. Yet the issues of racial injustice, mandatory sentencing, and profits of the “prison-industrial complex” remain all too timely.
Two expert justice reform advocates will offer policy updates and lead discussion. Bob Ross, long active with the NAACP Prince George’s chapter and its president for the past five years, will report on pending reform measures in the Maryland General Assembly. From the federal-policy group The Sentencing Project will come sociologist Nazgol Ghandnoosh, who has studied racial disparities in the justice system and the scope of reform efforts, including projects that challenge severe sentences. The audience will learn how citizens can best raise their voices for justice reform.
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