This article was originally published by i-D UK.
As if he wasn't busy enough announcing new albums and holding Bey's hand as she births two tiny music heirs, Jay Z just wrote a very public essay on something close to his heart. Under the byline Shawn Carter, the "lauded recording artist, philanthropist, and father" shared exactly why he's drawing attention to the exploitative bail industry in the US.
In the feature he references his 2001 single with R.Kelly, "Guilty Until Proven Innocent," released to proclaim his innocence after being accused of stabbing his business partner Lance Riviera, which, incidentally, we all seem to have forgotten that he later admitted to (Riviera didn't press charges). But enough of that! After flipping the usual "innocent until proven guilty" idealistic principle supposedly at the heart of the justice system, Jay now has a lot more to say on the subject, detailing how, if you come from a neighborhood like the Brooklyn one he grew up in, you're unlikely to be able to afford a private attorney or bail, and are much more likely to get lost in the jail system.
"Millions of people are separated from their families for months at a time," he says, "not because they are convicted of committing a crime, but because they are accused of committing a crime". It's a huge deal for such a prominent figure to speak publicly on the a topic, calling for change to start here and now. Jay highlights the effect this unnecessary incarceration has on the families left behind, not to mention the billions of dollars wasted. "We can't fix our broken criminal justice system until we take on the exploitative bail industry," he writes, adding that on any given day there are "over 400,000 people convicted of no crime, held in jail because they can't afford to buy their freedom."
Text Frankie Dunn
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