Each year, the Fourth of July marks for many, a day where Americans come together to celebrate their “freedom” and the “birth of the nation.” For others, the holiday means a day off work and an excuse to dust off the grill and share a pot-luck style meal with friends and family.
But beneath the fireworks, barbecues, and patriotic fanfare exists harsh truths that cannot be ignored — that the nation’s freedoms are a product of genocide, that the US was built off the backs of enslaved people violently captured from West Africa, and that today instead of choosing a path of reparations, the US has instead built upon its dark history through its continually expanding system of mass incarceration.
Nearly 250 years after the US’ so-called freedom was marked by the signing of the Declaration of Independence, more than 2 million citizens and counting remain locked in cells, stripped of their freedom.
Let's not mince words. Mass incarceration and the prison-industrial complex — a tangled web of private corporations, government agencies, and lawmakers with a vested interest in keeping the prison system thriving — target marginalized communities with outsized vigor. People of color, particularly Black and Brown communities, have borne the brunt, facing higher arrest rates, racist criminal laws, longer sentences, and felony disenfranchisement compared to their white counterparts.
These are just some of the glaring disparities which both perpetuate racial inequality and shatter the illusion of freedom for all Americans.
As these harsh realities persist, the call for criminal justice reform continues to grow. IPP is committed to adding out our voice and efforts to amplify a collective message demanding changes to sentencing policies, implementing robust opportunities for early release, and demanding that human beings be defined not by their worst act and instead given the opportunity for redemption. Through creative lawyering, we’re fighting for true freedom by creating new pathways out of prison, restoring hundreds of years of life, and reuniting families.
It all begs the question: Is the Fourth of July a cause for celebration or day of mourning? For our team, the holiday is a reminder of why we do this work and just how much there is left to do.
It starts with dispelling the myth of freedom often associated with this holiday and acknowledging the troubling reality of mass incarceration. By understanding the historical context, the disproportionate impact on marginalized communities, and the perpetuation of the prison-industrial complex, we can actively strive towards a more just and equitable society.
Together, through reform efforts, like ending unjust and excessive sentencing, and a collective commitment to true freedom and justice, we aim to create a future where all individuals have the opportunity to flourish.