tv Our World With Black Enterprise CW June 26, 2011 6:30am-7:00am EDT
mar . this week on "our world with black enterprise" we're on location in orlando, florida at the sixth annual black enterprise women of power summit. i'm mark hill. coming up next, my one-on-one interview with author, former olympian and point guard for the wnba's shock, marian jones. plus, we take an inside look at the criminal justice system. that's our on the record discussion. that's what's going on in our world. that's what's going on in our world. starting now. captions made possible by the u.s. department of education and central city productions, inc. marian jones is on the right track. after serving six months in prison for lying to federal prosecutors about using performance-enhancing drugs, she's come clean about her past and is now shooting for success.
i recently caught up with her to talk about her new book and her new career. i just finished reading your new book. it's actually very amazing. talk to me about the journey that you described in this book. >> this one really is from the heart. it's all about finding forgiveness, all of us go through tough times in our lives. we all make mistakes. it's how do you pick yourself up and dust yourself off and look to the next chapter in your life, no pun intended. but it's very personal. i wrote a series of letters to my husband while i was incarcerated, ranging from why i made certain choices in my life and how to correct those. >> talk to me about some of the choices. when you first were asked the question in front of federal prosecutors about the substances and whether or not you knew what they were, whether you recognized them, you said no. what was going through your head at that time? what made you make that decision?
>> all of my success was going through my head. everything that i had worked so hard for was going through my head. knowing that if i didn't say that particular answer it could all be wiped away, and what i didn't realize is that it would be all wiped away and even more. so i did what my gut told me to do, and that was to lie at that moment. and it literally was less than ten seconds that i made the decision, and it's one of the things that i base my message that i share with a lot of young people today, and that is before you make critical decisions in your life, it's important -- really important that you take a break, you take a step back, you really look at the situation, you consult people who have life experience, and then you make a wise choice. i wish at that moment that i had taken a break, whether it was two minutes in the hallway with my attorneys, or you know, ten
minutes discussing what the possible consequences were. even though i knew them, you really think that -- we all get to a point where we let our ego take control of our emotions and our decisions and you think that you're untouchable. you get caught up in people patting you on the back and telling you you're great and you don't deal with certain issues that you have and that's what i did. i surrounded myself with people who didn't look out for my best interests. >> it's interesting. of the people who you were surrounded with, you're the one who ended up incarcerated. they did not. that has to be a heck of a thing to think about and wrestle with. >> i don't spend too much time thinking about it. i let the journalists do that. what it comes down to with me, i broke the law. i did my time. i'm not here to judge anybody else. there will be another day for them to be judged at some time else. that's not my job.
i did what i had to do and it actually wound up being a blessing for me. i've been put here to do something special. i've been blessed with this amazing gift to connect with people, to communicate on a certain level that people think that they know me. that's not something that i learned. it's something that's been given to me and i have to share it. >> being in a cell sometimes 24 out of 24 hours a day, you learn a lot about yourself. and it was a blessing. >> i served my sentence at one of the hardest federal prisons in the country, female prisons, and was attacked while i was in prison, had to defend myself, spent 46 plus days in solitary confinement. not solitary confinement where you're out for 12 hours of the day. solitary confinement where you're in a box by yourself for sometimes 24 out of 24 hours of the day. and you have nothing but time. you have nothing but time to figure out who the heck you are,
you have nothing but time to figure out why you made certain choices, and most importantly, what you want to do when you get out. like do you want -- did i want to just disappear from the public eye, or did i want to make that negative situation a positive. and although it has been difficult to have to talk about my mistakes over and over again or to relive certain tough times in my life, it's been more than worth it because i see people are being blessed by hearing my story, and so i'm glad i made the decision not to just disappear. i mean, more so glad that i decided to play basketball because it has given me a much bigger stage to share my story. sure, i love the challenge of playing again at 35 years old. >> let's talk about, you are a 34-year-old rookie. i was impressed. i can barely get up the steps at 32. you're a 34-year-old rookie in a league running around with 21 year olds and holding your own.
what was it like to be a rookie again? what was it like to be the new kid? >> very humbling. it showed me that i could play with these ladies but i have a lot of work to do. >> they treat you like a rookie? >> they did. they did. i was hazed. >> were you carrying bags? >> i was. i did. i did all that. because all these ladies have been through it. they have achieved certain successes in the sport of basketball that i haven't yet. but i think i gained a lot of respect, one, by going through with the hazing, and two, nobody's going to outwork me. >> that's for sure. >> that's hands down. once the ladies realized that i didn't want anything handed to me, i was willing -- i worked to get in the league and i'm willing to work to be a success in the league, and once they saw that, i gained their respect. >> please welcome marian jones. >> one of the ways you give back now is through the take a break
foundation. talk to us about what that is. >> the message of take a break is something that's very close to my heart. while i was incarcerated and i made the choice while i was in there that i wasn't going to disappear, that i was going to be back in the public eye and that i was going to be giving back, and i wondered how can i share my story and my experience with young people, older people alike, on how to make better decisions, and i went through all the different scenarios. then it came back to that moment that i wish i had slowed down. i wish i had taken a break, you know, taken a moment to really think about the consequences of what you say or of your actions, and that's how it came about. the positive response that i've gotten, received from the young people, and the parents alike, is enough for me to keep it going. >> i was so mad at you, and my daughter, you know, she had her pictures all over the wall and the day i had to tell her, it
just broke my heart. and she pulled the picture off the wall and i didn't know what to say. i said you know, people make mistakes but i was so mad at you. and i'm so happy to see you today. it's just, it fills my heart. the fact that you get up here and you put yourself out there and you're real, and we can feel your pain. i'm sitting here crying. >> 50 years from now, when you finally retire from the wnba, the kids are out of the house, everything's done, how do you want people to remember marian jones? >> i look forward to that day when i can just sit on my porch in my white rocking chair with my freshly squeezed lemonade. >> i will say right now, you will never sit in a rocking chair. you will be in an 80 and under basketball league. >> i just want people to remember that i was an individual who has been blessed with amazing gifts from physical, like i said, the ability to communicate, connect with people, but a person who
made bad choices but at some point figured it all out and figured that i'm here for a reason and that's to give back. i don't want people to remember me for marian jones, the great athlete who made bad choices. no. that doesn't stand up over the test of time, really. people remember folks who made positive contributions to our world, and that's how i hope i'm remembered. >> up next, we're back in studio for a look at racial disparities in the american prison system. >> you have three communities in new york city where 70% of the prisoners throughout the state of new york come from. >> three communities and 70% of the state's prison population come from these three communities? >> these three areas. these three counties in new york city.
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you won't believe what you can start. she has the power to change her world. you have the power to help her do it. visit... ♪ reach out according to all reports, the united states has the highest incarceration rate on the planet. at the current moment, more than 7.3 million people are either paroled, on probation or incarcerated. although african-americans comprise only 12% of the u.s. population, they make up 41% of the nation's prison population. joining me to discuss the incarceration crisis are barry sheck, and michael cord, philadelphia criminal trial lawyer and activist.
thank you for joining us. i think the most stunning number that i have ever seen is the fact that in 1970 there were only somewhere between 250,000 and 300,000 people incarcerated in the whole country. 40 years later, 2.5 million people are incarcerated. how do we get from 250,000 in 1970 to 2.5 million in 2011? how does that happen? >> very simple. two things happened within our sentencing system. the first was mandatory minimum sentences. in state and federal courts. just completely took discretion away from judges and if you committed certain kinds of crimes, you were going to go to prison for long periods, period. that's it. and those were most often associated with drug laws. and the drug laws alone during that period are what accounts for the huge increase in incarceration. >> the war on drugs began in
1984 and over that time, as barry points out, we have seen a skyrocket in incarceration rates, particularly among african-american people, really among poor people. why is the war on drugs so central to this? >> if you look at the communities across class lines and across race, you'll find drugs. you'll find drug users and find drug sellers. but what's happened is that the way that our policing systems are designed in cities, is that there's a racial profiling of communities with high numbers of african-american and latino people so you see more drug convictions coming out of particular communities which will give you the illusion that there's more drug use. >> why is race so important in the criminal justice system? why does race play such a big factor? >> in terms of race, people often say you always play the race card and why you always talk about race when it comes to the criminal justice system. my answer is simple. i ask everybody the first question i pose and they say race doesn't matter, is let's say tomorrow, you have to go to court as a defendant anywhere, alaska, alabama, arkansas, pennsylvania, and you have the
choice to go as a black man defendant or white man defendant, which would you choose. nobody is blacker than me. >> ain't nobody -- >> absolutely. >> interesting observation. >> the numbers are crazy but crazier when race comes into the mix. >> i always said if i went to princeton university on a friday night i could arrest people for public drunkenness, public urination, marijuana, at the same rate i could at any black neighborhood but we're not looking to princeton university for those things, or any other university. why the overemphasis on black neighborhoods? >> the reason is obvious. they have done all these studies of racial profiling. on the new jersey turnpike and all kinds of different thoroughfares. the numbers show that there are more white people carrying drugs down the new jersey turnpike than black people, but no matter how many times we try to reform the system, more black people are being pulled over for it. >> this isn't happenstance.
there's a pipeline into the prisons in the country that links directly back to communities that have high levels of police officers. so people's entire communities are profiled, racial profiling is happening, and that pipeline, if you look at a city like say, for example, new york city, there are three communities in new york city where 70% of the prisoners throughout the state of new york come from. it's no surprise that those are also communities where you have -- >> you said -- three communities and 70% of the state's prison population come from these three communities? >> these three areas. these three counties in new york city. so what you see also is that those are the same counties where you have heavy policing, where you have special programs like the street crimes unit which was responsible for the killing of a suspect so there's an intense level of policing that fuels people into the arraignment process and on to the prisons. >> one of the really fascinating things in terms of trying to change this and break this
bottleneck is andrew cuomo, just elected governor of new york said something sensible. we have to cut budgets and we have prisons, upstate new york, where they are being underutilized. we have to close some of those down. he is having so much trouble trying to close these prisons. all of a sudden people are saying this is hurting jobs in upstate new york. there is literally a prison industrial complex that has an economic interest. >> that's an important point. we need to think about it. michael, i know you've done a lot of work on the criminal justice system, both on the activist side and as an attorney. what does it mean for there to be a financial stake in prisons as barry just pointed out, there are actually jobs attached. we go to some cities where towns would shut down if the prisons shut down. how do we make sense of that? >> there is money to be made in the prison industrial complex, no doubt about it. you would think if it's only
about the money, then the white boys would go to jail just like the black guys go to jail but that doesn't happen. >> i think the key link in this, there is an economic factor but there is political power representation. that's sharply linked to high incarceration rates. we keep focusing on the individuals' loss of rights and political voice which is a travesty nonetheless, but the entire community's political power is diminished when high levels of people from that community are incarcerated. in many states around the country, once you get a felony conviction, your right to vote is taken away from you and you have virginia and mississippi in particular where one to three and one to four black men in those states are disenfranchised. >> barry, much of your work with the innocence project is dealing with people who have been wrongfully convicted. if you had to guess, what percentage of the people incarcerated right now would you say are wrongfully convicted. >> there are pretty staggering numbers. there have been a number of studies. people have guesstimated, they have done a little better than
that, but you want to be conservative, say 3% of people are wrongfully convicted, may very well be higher. >> still close to 100,000 people. >> that's a lot of people. >> that's a lot of people. when we come back, we will talk more about this and i also want to talk about some solutions. we'll be right back. >> i think once you educate a person and give a person a job, 90% of the crime will stop. bro. where's your car? [ jake sighs ] it's ok. ♪ like a good neighbor, state farm is there ♪ oh hey jake! my car got jacked. i got it. ladies! [ chuckles ] guess you're walking. you got those figures for me yet? ♪ like a good neighbor, state farm is there ♪ with an intern! nice work. casual wednesdays! casual wednesdays! [ both laugh ] what?! [ male announcer ] state farm agents are there when you need them.
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>> i think once you educate a [ female announcer ] before allegra, allergies kept julie inside. after allegra, she's outside all day. [ male announcer ] children's allegra. effective, long-lasting and non-drowsy. [ female announcer ] after children's allegra, kids have it all. welcome back. we're still here with barry, monifa and michael. talking about the incarceration crisis. we're moving from analysis now to solutions. team, please tell me, what can we do now, people obviously will say don't commit the crime, people will say be responsible, don't do drugs, don't steal. all of us i think are in agreement on that but moving beyond that point, what do we do in terms of this mass incarceration thing? >> well, what's a solution. solution is a multi-step approach. first, education. not just education, but paid education. even if it's minimum wage to pay these folks to come in to get --
to learn reading, writing and arithmetic but for the black folks, also history courses, cultural courses, to find out about african-american history and ancient african history. then beyond that, paid job training and then job placement. i think once you educate a person and give a person a job, 90% of the crime will stop. >> we also have to support sound policy around prison and incarceration. we have to look at the sentencing laws in every state, the federal laws, and try and get our elected officials to back away from this tough on crime stance that they're taking as a means for lowering crimes in communities. it's not true, it doesn't work. research has shown that that's not what you use to rid a community of crime. there's other sensible things like better education systems and the like. >> one of the really interesting political developments is that recently, there's a group called right on crime and a number of these people on the right recognize that there are too many people in prison, that
these are sclerotic broken down bureaucracies, we have to get people out of there. we have to have reentry programs, sane parole programs, get rid of the mandatory minimum laws, do something sensible about treating narcotics and reduce the volume in the system. so i think that that is a really important coalition for us to look to. >> thank you all for a spirited panel. i hope to have you all back again soon. we'll be back with more in a bit. ♪ mickyd's, mcdonald's ♪ mcnugget time ♪ at mcdonald's ♪ six sauces, so you can dunk 'em ♪ [ male announcer ] introducing a new lineup of sauces for your mcdonald's chicken mcnuggets. six delicious flavors including sweet chili, honey mustard and tangy barbeque. ♪ six sauces, so you can dunk 'em ♪ [ male announcer ] so your crispy juicy made with white meat chicken mcnuggets are a slam dunk every time. it's the simple joy of throwing down. ♪ ba-da-ba-ba-ba
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that wraps it up for us. i'm mark hill at the sixth annual black enterprise women of power summit. visit us at blackenterprise.com and check me out on facebook and follow me on twitter. thanks for watching. see you next week. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com deal! my money. my choice. my meineke. after allegra, she's outside all day. [ male announcer ] children's allegra. effective, long-lasting and non-drowsy. [ female announcer ] after children's allegra, kids have it all.