Jay Z Promotes Prison Reform

I’ve complained for years that there is very little support for reforming our criminal justice system because there isn’t a monied constituency with a big stake on the matter, but perhaps some celebrity backing can help fill that void. Jay Z recently expressed his support for a California initiative that would be a step in the right direction.

Moments before performing his 1998 hit, “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” in front of over 90,000 fans at the Rose Bowl last weekend, Jay Z expressed support for a California ballot measure that would shift state funding away from prisons and toward schools and enrichment.

“Prop 47, California: Build more schools, less prisons,” Jay Z said. “More schools, less prisons, California. They’ll never be able to stop us.” If approved by state voters in November, Proposition 47 would reduce most nonviolent crimes — including petty theft and drug possession — from felonies to misdemeanors. Nearly 10,000 prisoners could also see reductions in their sentences. The savings accrued by the state, projected to reach at least $150 million, would go into a Create a Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund.

The fact that Jay Z would use as prominent as stage as the much-buzzed-about “On The Run” tour to comment on prison policy is surprising, as many have criticized the rapper in recent years for failing to take a stand on social and political issues of great prominence to people of color.

More of this please. The California referendum is barely the tip of the tip of the iceberg of what needs to be done to make our justice system more fair and rational, but at least it’s a step in the right direction rather than the wrong one.

"Preferably in chains. Loud, clanking chains."

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  • Trebuchet

    “More schools, less prisons” sounds great, but simply shifting funding away from the prison system seems like the wrong way to go about it. Unless you stop imprisoning people the way we are, all that will do is make conditions in prisons even worse.

  • corwyn

    I would love to see a discussion about whether prison is the best solution to certain non-violent crimes.

  • Who Cares

    Trebuchet that is why this proposition also turns felonies into misdemeanors. The general difference is felonies mean a punishment of at least 1 year in prison, misdemeanors a maximum of 1 year in jail. Note that this on the federal level but most states follow this model, some exceptions push the distinction up to 2 to 2 1/2 years.

  • krambc

    This comment comes with a Pedant Warning:

    “More schools, less prisons” sounds great

    More schools, fewer prisons, better grammar.

  • dingojack

    krambc – according to Fowler’s The King’s English (1930) either is acceptable. You, of course, have bucket-loads of evidence to the contrary, yes?


  • sugarfrosted

    @4 That grammar “rule” appears in the 1770s due to a grammarian pulled it out of his ass. There is no precedent prior to that. It didn’t really reflect usage and it still doesn’t.

  • sugarfrosted

    @6 I appear to have been to harsh on the guy. He was expressing his preference and later people viewed it as a proscription.

  • Well, dingojack, if Weird Al says its so, then its so. (Or should those be “it’s”?)

  • dingojack

    WNDKitty – seems my ‘grammar nazi’ reply to your comment above locally broke Dispatches (for a short time anyway).

    In short: it’s “it’s” *.

    [/grammar nazi]



    * If in doubt, give the subject a ‘sex’ when composing the sentence.

    Take the sentence: “it’s|its text says it’s|its incorrect” (That is, the text the neuter subject owns/controls says that the neuter object is not correct).

    Since the subject and the object are both neutral (or ‘non-sexed’) nouns, let’s (temporarily) give them a ‘sex’ . This renders the sentence as: “His/her (possessive) text says he/she is (or, using a contraction, he’s/she’s) incorrect”.

    So therefore: “Its text says it’s incorrect”.

  • But if the ‘so’ belongs to ‘it’…

  • dingojack

    Richard – to which one would ask: “what is a ‘so’?”*




    * ‘so’ can be use as an adjective, an adverb, a conjunction, an interjection or a pronoun** . But not as a noun

    ** note the order of this list. Never let it be said I’m not anal.