Common brings some truth to the statehouse

“When people are willing to transform and change their lives, they shouldn’t be punished for it forever.”

Common Sense—that’s what the rapper/actor/activist now known as Common used to call himself. He said the above to the Sacramento Bee’s Matt Kawahara on day one of a three-day campaign to bring some common sense to the state house. His message: The mass imprisonment of people of color must end.

The Capitol Mall rally Monday night, during which Common was joined onstage by a dozen fellow-traveling artists and activists, kicked off two days during which he would meet with lawmakers to discuss pending legislation regarding crime and punishment. The event also signified the beginning of a movement.

“Moments are important, but movements are more important,” said Van Jones, the author, CNN commentator and former Obama adviser. “This march marks the beginning of the end of mass incarceration in the United States of America.”

Common was drawn to Sacramento by three bills. Senate Bill 394 would give people sentenced as juveniles to life without parole a chance to be released after 25 years of incarceration. SB 395 would require police to allow minors to consult with an attorney before waiving their Miranda rights.

SB 10 would have an even more powerful impact: Aimed to fix a legal system that targets poor people for prison, it would “ensure that people are not held in pretrial detention simply because of their inability to afford money bail.”

Young people of color and low-income people of any color have reason to believe that the criminal justice system is biased against them. These bills would go a long way toward changing that.