I have been told that I have a bit of a bleeding heart. Especially when it comes to our political and justice systems. As someone who works within one of those systems, I find myself working tirelessly to try to promote equality. To foster an environment of change. To try to educate and inform people to have a better understanding of what is broken and how it can be fixed. My point is not to sound superior in any way. I am fortunate enough to be in a position to be able to promote social change. But that being said, I am only one person. I do my best, and sometimes I fail. Sometimes the systems are just so messed up that it doesn’t matter what we do, it feels like it will always be broken.
Because I’m a bleeding heart, I was drawn to an article I read yesterday about Jay-Z. No, this isn’t another article about his album release. But rather, an article about how he is helping bail out men who are imprisoned in order to let them spend time with their families on Father’s Day. What he is doing is speaking to the fact that the system is broken. Men (and women) often spend months in jail awaiting a hearing or a trial. They aren’t necessarily criminals. They didn’t necessarily even commit a crime. In fact, they are held in jail until their trial because they can’t afford either a lawyer to defend them, or money for bail. While I don’t have statistics to back this up, but I would suspect that many of the people in jail accused of a crime, didn’t actually commit the crime.
And that’s how Jay-Z feels too. In an essay that he wrote for Time Magazine, Jay-Z says this:
Last month for Mother’s Day, organizations like Southerners on New Ground and Color of Change did a major fundraising drive to bail out 100 mothers for Mother’s Day. Color of Change’s exposè on the for-profit bail industry provides deeper strategy behind this smart and inspiring action. This Father’s Day, I’m supporting those same organizations to bail out fathers who can’t afford the due process our democracy promises. As a father with a growing family, it’s the least I can do, but philanthropy is not a long fix, we have to get rid of these inhumane practices altogether. We can’t fix our broken criminal justice system until we take on the exploitative bail industry.
What do you think of this? Some might argue that some of these men are criminals, and should stay in jail. Which might be the case. But overall, I think that this speaks to a larger discrepancy in the system. Don’t get me wrong, I am not pro-crime. But I don’t think that the answer is throwing someone in jail for petty crimes. I also don’t want to get into how the justice system is broken. I will say this though. How can justice be so closely tied to how much money you have? Some of you are probably laughing and saying of course it is. And I can appreciate that perspective. But my question is how can a justice system function when it’s so closely tied to how much money you have? In many cases, it can’t. It doesn’t work.
Poor people are marginalized, and those with money seem to be able to game the system in some cases. Jay-Z recognizes this. Just because he’s bailing men out of jail, doesn’t mean it’s going to fix the system. All it means is that those people are going to get to spend time with their families. He recognizes that this isn’t enough. But will there ever be a system that doesn’t marginalize people?
I can truly appreciate this gesture for what it is. I also recognize, as does Jay-Z that it’s not enough. But what will it take? We live in a capitalist society that only favours an increase in capital. It doesn’t place a value on anything other than money. And the justice system is no different. I think what Jay-Z is doing is commendable, but something else has got to give. I did say that I am a bit of a bleeding heart, and this type of cause is no different for me. It does warm my heart to know that some people were able to spend Father’s Day with their families. And I live in hope that this won’t always be the reality.