Denzel Washington Returns To Courtroom In New Film And Shares Solution To Mass Incarceration

November 26, 2017  |  

denzel washington shares thoughts on mass incarceration


You may be marching to #FreeMeekMill or kneeling with Colin Kaepernick to protest the inequality and discrimination that plagues the country’s criminal justice system, but actor Denzel Washington believes that the relationship between black men and mass incarceration is not as complicated as some would suggest.

In his latest film, Roman J. Israel, Esq., Washington plays an idealistic defense attorney whose beliefs are tested when he joins a new law firm. Washington’s character is on the overzealous spectrum with features of Asperger syndrome.  He shares that he’s not worried about what the critics will say.  He was drawn to the role, so he played it:

“I just do what I do.”

“I can’t be concerned. I don’t know what they’re going to think, so that’s not something that comes into my head. . . . If it’s something I’m interested in, then I do it if I can, and we’ll find out what they think about it.”

The New York Daily News reports that while out promoting the film, the actor shared that his latest role didn’t make him any more cynical of the criminal justice system and when asked about the prison-industrial complex, Washington shared the solution is closer to home than we may think:

“It starts at home.”

“It starts with how you raise your children. If a young man doesn’t have a father figure, he’ll go find a father figure.”

“So you know I can’t blame the system. It’s unfortunate that we make such easy work for them.”

In the past I’ve worked with adjudicated youth who were also teen parents and I’ve witnessed unhealthy mindsets and cycles of trauma and flawed reasoning that contributed to bad choices with costly outcomes. I can attest to the fact that being a parent who is present and providing your children with positive examples, values and unconditional support definitely helps in guiding them on paths where they never have to become involved with the prison system.

However, Washington is definitely over-simplifying the solution here. A good home with involved parents did not stop Trayvon Martin from being murdered by an over-zealous neighbor who couldn’t see beyond his hoodie and the candy he was carrying. Nor did it stop George Zimmerman from being acquitted of his crimes. Our country definitely has a flawed and unjust prison system that can affect black men whether they are on their way to class or on their way to rob the grocery store. Don’t get it twisted, Mr. Washington. So while I agree that parenting is important, I’d also suggest taking a knee as well and continuing to question the system and hold those in power accountable.

Roman J. Israel, Esq., is currently playing in theaters.

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