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True Justice Unveiled: NAACP Boulder County Partner with MOTUS Theater for Prison Documentary Screening

True Justice Unveiled: NAACP Boulder County Partner with MOTUS Theater for Prison Documentary Screening


False accusations and prison labor institutionally oppress people of color

To be falsely accused of a crime is not a concern occupying the minds of most, yet this reality disproportionately impacts people of color in the United States. Various examples o are brought to light in the documentary “True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality. A notable case is that of Anthony Hinton, who was accused and falsely convicted of the robbery and murder of two restaurant managers. He was sentenced to death and served 28 years on death row before his exoneration in 2015. Hinton published a book about his experience while incarcerated titled “The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row.

The documentary follows lawyer Bryan Stevenson and his work for incarcerated individuals serving time for crimes they did not commit, for those sentenced too harshly, and for people who have experienced abuse within jail or prison walls. Stevenson’s dedication expanded when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative in 1989.

One may believe a false conviction is easy to overturn, but once a person is behind bars, society can start to see them as less than a person.

In addition, death sentences are far more common for Black people in America. The injustices of racial discrimination are deeply rooted in the history of the U.S. and its impacts ripple through the present.

“In many ways, you can say the North won the civil war, but the South won the narrative war. The urgent narrative that we’re trying to deal with in this country is the narrative of racial difference. The narrative we have to overcome is the narrative of white supremacy,” Stevenson stated in the film.

The lynching of Black people in the U.S. was often used to make a clear racial separation from whites. This dehumanization of Black Americans correlated to a lack of effective criminal defense if accused of a crime. Any minuscule accusation could be taken into the hands of white mobs with no interest in the justice system. As Michelle Alexander argued in “The New Jim Crow,” the lynching of people of color has taken on a new face throughout various levels of our justice system. This modernization of discrimination is displayed through false convictions, death penalty enforcement by judges, and prison labor. Stevenson dubbed the death penalty as “legal lynchings.”

Working for reform

The Equal Justice Initiative has successfully been able to assist hundreds of unfair trial cases. This work has taken years to build. False eyewitness testimonies and errors in forensic work cause the majority of false convictions. 

Featured speaker Jason Hogan was convicted of robbery for an incident that occurred at the Cherry Creek Shopping Center. Hogan detailed the discrepancies made in his case, the pinned evidence on him the inaccurate descriptions by the witness. With the help of members from the Korey Wise Innocence Project, Hogan was exonerated. To grasp the scale of difficulty to remove someone from the restraint of our criminal justice system, it took five years after Hogan’s case was picked up to find evidence to prove his innocence during which he had already served 18 of his 77-year sentence.

“It’s not a system that is broken. It is just meant to impart what they view as justice. It doesn’t matter who did it because what matters is retribution, that someone pays for it.” Hogan explained during the post screening panel.

This raises another issue within our criminal justice system: profit from incarcerated individual’s labor. Plenty of industries use prison labor for manufacturing. Many individuals behind bars who are presented with an opportunity to work join the prison workforce as a change of pace and for some meager income. This has become a new way to extract labor from Black bodies for compensation so low it would otherwise be illegal.

Additionally, for-profit prisons have caused an influx of incarcerated individuals. In ensuring the conviction of black and brown folks, lowering the age to be tried as an adult, and profiting off prison labor, the U.S. criminal justice system has found legal bonds to continue to institutionally oppress people of color.

The harrowing journey of facing a false conviction exposes a darker reality that is the U.S. criminal justice system. The tireless efforts of those working with the Equal Justice Initiative and other criminal justice reform organizations serve as a beacon of hope for the community, as well as a testament to an urgent need for reform.

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