WHAT: #MySentence, a video series in which famous faces recite the first-person accounts of people who received long sentences for non-violent crimes, highlighting President Obama’s work around clemency.
WHO: The five videos released so far in the series from Fictionless Films star Pusha T, Tim Robbins, Gabourey Sidibe, Monica, and Ludacris.
WHY WE CARE: Obama’s clemency push is one of the more unheralded moves of his presidency. On Monday, he pardoned or commuted the sentences of 231 prisoners, the most ever in a single day. A large part of his legacy should be defined by the fact that he’s used this particular power of the presidency in ways that we haven’t seen in decades: even before he ordered the release of those 231 individuals, he’d done the same for 1,093 other non-violent offenders, and the total number at this point (remember, he’s got another month left in office) is more than any president since Truman. For sentence commutations specifically, the numbers are even more aggressive–he’s ordered the release of about as many offenders as both Bushes, Clinton, Reagan, Carter, Nixon, LBJ, Kennedy, Eisenhower, Truman, and FDR combined.
All of those numbers and statistics are interesting, but they’re also kind of meaningless without context. That’s where the #MySentence series comes in–by telling the stories (and using familiar faces to do it), we understand exactly what it means to have a sentence commuted. The people we see here did commit crimes, but the tough-on-crime mentality that led them to face unfair sentences ultimately treated them much more harshly than they should have been. That’s an easy point to understand when you learn how young they were when they were convicted, what they’ve done while imprisoned, and how much the world around them has changed since they went in. This is an important project that helps inform an under-appreciated part of the Obama presidency, and it’s good to see these faces tell these stories.