The House I Live In Questions War on Drugs
How would you grade America’s war on drugs? Eugene Jarecki, in his provocative film, The House I Live In, humanizes the harshness of the epidemic and reality that almost seems unreal. “This is the primary most important human rights crisis facing America,” says Eugene Jarecki
John Legend, Danny Glover, and Brad Pitt are also executive producers of the film. Undoubtedly, the celebrity support brings a crowd, like the more than 1,000 people who packed Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, DC, Jan. 19. But the captivating content that oozes off-screen through the revelatory candor of the cast profoundly carries the message. “I loved it and it’s very inspirational, says Gary Woodward, a Shiloh Baptist Church member.
The film peels away misconceptions and emotionally fine-combs through facts that have defined the war on drugs for more than 50 years. It unfolds into an impromptu education on class, politics and race in America. How much is too much time for someone to spend in prison for selling drugs that weigh little more than a bag of chips? Where are the serious rehabilitation and drug treatment facilities in prisons across the country? Is society getting a return on its exploding investment in more prisons? “This film is very important because there are so many issues and this can easily get swept under the rug,” says Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.
The House I Live In gives crass answers to questions about crime, punishment and fairness, through people like Maurice. He’s 28 years old and for selling 50 grams of crack, will spend at least 20 years in prison. The judge empathizes but has no choice because of mandatory prison sentencing guidelines. “You don’t know what’s it’s like to go to bed at night knowing you’ve done an injustice to someone,” says Judge Mark Bennet, from Sioux City, IA. Maurice, like so many behind bars, continues to hold out hope. “If anything is going to be done, it’s going to have to be done by people out there,” says Maurice.
The House I Live In is sure to draw ire from people who see relaxing mandatory sentencing as a sign of being soft on crime. When a federal judge, a narcotics officer and a convicted criminal all come to the same conclusion, perhaps it’s time to reexamine the stern approach to obtaining a dream of a drug-free America. “Everybody needs to do something and it’s not just the responsibility of one person,” says David Kuhn, an outreach officer working with the producers of The House I Live In.
Log on to www.thehouseilivein.org to view the trailer and the film’s screening schedule.
We welcome your comments. E-mail Maniko Barthelemy directly at NewsHeels@gmail.com.