Rapper T.I. Joins the Fray in Denouncing War on Drugs

By Seth Ferranti 10/06/16

“At some point you have to look at what is good for the country. This is indecent...This is an injustice...We shouldn't be standing for it."

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Rapper T.I. Joins the Fray in Denouncing War on Drugs
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Following Jay Z and Michael K. Williams, rapper and actor Clifford "T.I." Harris has joined the growing list of celebrities who’ve recently launched scathing indictments against the War on Drugs and its impact on the African-American community.

In a five-minute video for Vevo’s “Why I Vote” campaign, T.I. gives his opinion on the War on Drugs, disproportionate sentences and the 100-to-one crack cocaine sentencing disparity. "If you got caught with 10 grams of crack it was mandatory that the judge sentenced you as though you had 1,000 grams of powder, which is a kilo," he says in the video. "Now here we are, two million prisoners later." 

The Atlanta rapper talks about how mass incarceration has broken up families and how prisons are run as for-profit business entities. Finally, President Obama is getting some much-needed support in his efforts to overhaul our criminal justice system.

It was in the '90s that T.I. said he “started experiencing people being gone for a long time. [Guys were like] you heard about such and such, he just got 15 years, 20 years. As a child it gave you an early understanding of where this environment can take you. Like, wait a minute, is that what's going to happen to me?

The chorus to end the drug war grows larger by the day. With more prominent—and better yet, famous—voices entering the fray, the sooner this unjust system becomes kaput, the better. With the drug war now being viewed as the root of systematic problems such as police shootings to the stigma of being an ex-con, clarity can finally be reached if awareness is raised.

“The War on Drugs was formed because of crack cocaine,” T.I. continues. “Crack cocaine was introduced to the black neighborhoods. Nobody just all of a sudden learned how to put baking soda with water and cocaine and make a cheaper version that’s more potent. We ain’t no damn chemists and scientists. We didn’t come up with that. When you have the crack epidemic, the War on Drug ensues, and when the War on Drugs ensues, the laws change. And then it kind of spiraled from there.”

T.I. explains how low-level drug offenders are the ones getting all the time—doing decades of their lives away from their families, locking up mothers and fathers, and effectively destroying communities. T.I.’s uncle, who was the first person he knew who went to prison, even got a 10-year sentence for a conspiracy to distribute cocaine. T.I. couldn’t believe that he got that much time for being a low-level offender.

Mass incarceration costs taxpayers $80 billion a year and most prisons use what is essentially slave labor. “Every prison has a commodity. Some of them farm, some of them make clothes. When you are a prisoner, a part of the mandate of your sentence is getting up and working. The product that you’re working on is then put on a market for a corporation that makes top dollar for it. If this prisoner wasn’t working for them, they would have to pay someone else for it.

“That to me is incentivized incarceration. Private investors buying prisons for their own profits should not be legal. Those jobs should go back to the American people,” T.I. concluded.

“At a point you really have to look at what is best for the country. This is indecent. This is not fair. This is an injustice. This is not right. This isn't what we should be standing for.”

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After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at sethferranti.com. You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.

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