Dear Bill O'Reilly, You Want To Pick On Someone? Call Me. Russell Simmons.

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    Dear Bill, 

    It’s me! Your friend. Your old punching bag. Russell. Gotta tell you, your comments a few weeks back about a public letter to the President I organized, encouraging him to end the “War on Drugs” were way off base. They were so off base that your guest that night who you thought was just going to agree with your “talking points,” flipped on you and told you that you were wrong as well. And when I saw you this past weekend in Washington, you continued to spew your fear-laden rhetoric, while Geraldo couldn’t figure out whose side to take. Geraldo, you’ve been hanging out with your friends at Fox for too long…you got to get back to reality. Out of our people, you should know this reality, having come from a community that was completely destroyed by the “War on Drugs.” Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but Bill, you got to get your fact straights. It is not acceptable to use skewed and selective information to scare your audience to think that everyone in prison are “terrible people.” I know a lot of people who have gone to jail, and you know a lot of people who probably should have gone to jail, but because of the color of their skin or the zip code they lived in, were spared that punishment. And most of these people are diseased addicts who took some drugs, sold some drugs and went to buy some more drugs to stay high. 

    Bill, the days of being the “tough on crime” bully are over, so no need to play that character anymore. The failed war has bankrupted many of our states and cost the taxpayers over one trillion dollars with very few results to show for it. Republican and Democratic governors across this nation are realizing that the current system does not work, and that is why many are making drastic changes to their drug policies. Furthermore, it has become evident that the disproportionate affect it has had on communities of color is equivalent to the Jim Crow era, a further cause of destruction of urban areas in these states. And the sad part is that blacks and whites use and sell drugs at the same rate, yet black people go to prison at a rate of 7 times more than their white counterpart for the same offense. But, if you have no compassion for the racial injustices of an unfair criminal justice system, then I am sure we can agree that as businessmen, the way we are doing business makes no sense. Even after spending more than $50 billion a year on the Drug War, drugs are more available and drug cartels are more wealthy than ever before. You and I, and the rest of America, are paying for a program that has little to no return on our investment. 

    Our federal prison system needs a complete re-design, however over 90 percent of the nation’s inmates are housed in state or county facilities. Although our diverse coalition of civil rights leaders, religious leaders, actors, athletes, entertainers, activists, educators and elected officials is requesting for the President to make changes in federal policy, we know that his leadership will reverberate down through the states and pave the way for changes to be made there too. He knows that we cannot arrest our way out of this problem.  Currently, 80 percent of all drug arrests in this country are for possession and there is no clear indication that this has had any affect on rates of drug use. 

    Yes, violent crime and drug use might be down in your neighborhood, but it certainly is not for many impoverished neighborhoods across this country. Surely they might have cleaned up the places where white people live, but black America still lives under harsh conditions. It is no longer acceptable to be “tough on crime,” we must be “smart on crime.” Most people, from neighborhoods that I grew up in, from the streets that I know, went to prison for the first time for possession – non-violent offenders. After these diseased people became educated in criminal behavior behind bars (most of whom had to in order to survive), they came back to our communities and brought prison culture with them. This destroyed the fabric of the black community and most of my friends went back to prison as violent offenders. And now almost all of them are dead. I have watched their children take their place on the street corner, as the vicious cycle continues. We must create federal policy in each state that transforms our broken system rooted in punishment and suppression to one that encourages and invests in prevention, rehabilitation and treatment. 

    I would be happy to come on your show and talk to you in person. Stop attacking the people who signed the letter with me. You want to beat up on somebody? Beat up on me and Dr. Boyce Watkins, we wrote the letter. You want to fight someone over it, call me. I love you, I love watching your entertainment on television, but stop perpetuating a war that even your own buddies, Grover Norquist, Pat Robertson and Newt Gingrich, all agree has failed. And if you don’t want to listen to them or me, listen to your sweet, progressive daughter who will tell you that the answer to ending the drug problem in our country is not solved by putting more diseased people in prison. 

    ~Russell Simmons

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