A conversation with Judge William Murphy and Amy Fettig.
This month, Amy Fettig joined our conversation with Judge Murphy for The Justice Beat's legal hour. The purpose of the legal hour is to provide our listening audience with advocacy strategies, litigation strategies, and/or next steps for tackling social justice reform issues. This week, we had the opportunity to speak at length with Fettig and Murphy regarding criminal justice reform and sentencing.
William H. Murphy, J.D.
Judge Murphy is a senior and founding partner at
Murphy, Falcon, & Murphy law firm. He has been a Baltimore trial attorney for decades, aggressively and effectively handling a broad range of cases
including criminal defense, medical malpractice, personal injury, and more. Judge Murphy has a 90%
success rate in federal cases, which is four times higher than the national average (9%). His 40+ years in the courtroom have equipped Murphy to advocate for clients from all backgrounds and walks of life.
Amy Fettig, J.D.
Amy Fettig is a human rights lawyer and leading expert on criminal justice reform who has garnered national recognition for her work on prison conditions. Prior to joining The Sentencing Project, Fettig served as Deputy Director for the ACLU's National Prison Project. She has served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University, where she taught courses on public interest advocacy. Prior to law school, she worked with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people and their families in New York City.
What is The Sentencing Project?
The sentencing project is a leader in changing the way Americans think about crime and punishment. Its mission is to work for a fair and effective U.S. criminal justice system by producing groundbreaking research to promote reforms in sentencing policy, address unjust racial disparities and practices, and to advocate for alternatives to incarceration. The Sentencing Project has been conducting research, producing publications, and advocating for 34 years. It has raised awareness about how the United States is the world's leader in incarceration, that racial disparities plague the criminal justice system, that over 6 million Americans can't vote due to felony convictions, and that thousands of women and children have lost food stamps and cash assistance as the result of convictions of drug offenses.
Watch this video to learn more about The Sentencing Project:
"It's time to rethink the entire punishment paradigm."
We have relied on prisons and jails as the solution to social problems for far too long, and this is actually the worst possible solution we could come up with. Over and over again, it has been proven that prisons and jails devastate communities and waste billions of dollars. Mass incarceration began in the late 70's/early 80's, and race has played the most dominate role in sentencing. Specifically, the war on drugs is used specifically against the Black community for a very conscious reason: to slow down the political progress achieved during the Civil Rights Movement. Our criminal legal system has allowed Americans to look away because we lock people in prisons and don't know what happens to them after that. We don't pay attention to the inhumane conditions they are forced to deal with on a daily basis. When people are released from prisons, their ability to thrive as human beings has been taken away by the trauma that comes along with being incarcerated. However, the global pandemic and the Black Lives Matter Movement are starting to change this. More than ever before, Americans are realizing that our prisons are a mess. They are overcrowded, they are filthy, they are inhumane, and people are dying preventable deaths because we have failed to help them. It is time to question all of that. It is time for change.
What are the primary arguments against criminal justice sentencing reform?
It's the same old argument we've always heard: do the crime, do the time. People often take a hard line in believing that when crimes are committed, the people who commit them deserve what they get. The primary argument is a mindset that people in the criminal justice system are less than human. This mindset can be traced all the way back to slavery, when slaveholders believed that slaves were slaves, not human beings. This is the mindset that formed our criminal justice system.
Why don't white people call out each other as racists and challenge racist beliefs?
While this is improving, it's a justified criticism. People are often not conscious enough to check themselves, let alone others. It can also be difficult to call someone out when they are a person you love - whether it's a family member, friend, coworker, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc. Despite how hard it is, we have to challenge these things. We can't let them lie. We have looked away and tried to forget for far too long. We can sweep problems under the rug as much as we want, but that doesn't mean they will go away. Now is the time to hold everyone accountable, to hear others beliefs while also challenging them. Hold your truth and speak it.
Below is a list of resources for educating friends and family members on such sensitive matters.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness - Michelle Alexander
Ain't I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism - Bell Hooks
Between the World and Me - Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Autobiography of Malcolm X - Malcolm X
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism - Robin DiAngelo
Sister Outsider - Audre Lorde
White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide - Carol Anderson
TV Shows & Films
When They See Us (Netflix)
Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement (BET)
Selma (available to rent)
I Am Not Your Negro (Netflix)
The Force (Netflix)
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