100 A-List Celebs Join Movement to Reduce Prison Population and Reform Mandatory Minimums

October 5, 2015 - By Tony Newman

Amy Schumer, Steph Curry, Ed Norton, Jesse Williams, Chris Pine, Russell Simmons, and Piper Kerman are among 90+ celebrities calling for reform to our criminal justice system. The stars are joining the campaign led by #cut50, a bipartisan effort to reduce our incarcerated population by 50 percent over the next 10 years.

The celebrity push comes on the heels of a historic deal on criminal justice reform last week. The bill, spearheaded by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), will involve reductions in mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, an expansion of the federal "safety valve” (which allows judges to use their discretion to sentence people below statutory mandatory minimums), and will expand reentry programming and early release.

"Our broken criminal justice system harms more than it helps and wastes $80 billion a year. Americans are ready to fix it. Now it’s up to the national leaders in both parties to answer this call by passing strong federal legislation," said Van Jones, co-founder of the #cut50 campaign.

With less than 5 percent of the world’s population but nearly 25 percent of its incarcerated population, the United States imprisons more people than any other nation in the world – in large part due to misguided drug laws and draconian sentencing requirements that have produced profoundly unequal outcomes for communities of color.

“I spent 12 years behind bars because of draconian mandatory minimum sentences and I appreciate the significance of Congress rolling back our country’s drug war,” said Anthony Papa, manager of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance. “Having these influential celebrities throw their support behind this legislation will add to the growing momentum to end mass incarceration.”

The New York Times weighed in on the legislation last weekend with an editorial in strong support, saying it is a “crucial first step on the long path toward unwinding the federal government’s decades-long reliance on prisons as the answer to every ill.”

The high powered stars are joining the larger movement to pass this major sentencing reform legislation. The #JusticeReformNOW petition, organized by #cut50, has received more than 130,000 total signatures.

The petition can be found at JusticeReformNow.org and a current roster of celebrity signers here.

Tony Newman is the director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance (www.drugpolicy.org)

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