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Submitted 6:52 a.m.
12.02.2014
Letter to the Editor

We have the qualities – if we are what older generations describe us to be – to restore America to its fundamental ideals...This is our country, and we must demand that it be fair and just. ”

Blake Feldman of Athens, GA

Will millennials embrace prison reform? Yes. We have to, and we will. I am excited to follow the millennial freedom tour, and I hope it comes to UGA. But I'd like to add a few reasons millennials need to and will champion criminal justice reform – including, but not limited to, prison reform.

Pete and Scott’s contrasting upbringing illustrates that this movement can attract all people and draw them in by appealing diverse values. Millennial Christians, even those in the Bible belt, seem to drawn to the social justice aspect of the New Testament. Most of my right-leaning friends are "fiscal conservatives" or libertarians, so the message clearly resonates with them (reform is socially progressive and cost effective).

In addition to growing up without the overt propaganda of black criminality and super predators, there are characteristics of our generation that makes us "especially receptive" to revitalizing a more just system.

Like previous generations, we grow up and pretend equality and fairness, liberty and justice for all exists. What can change this disconnect are two stereotypical characteristics of millennials – that we’re entitled and have an instinct to reject “that’s just the way it works.”

We have the qualities – if we are what older generations describe us to be – to restore America to its fundamental ideals. We have the qualities to liberate America of injustices that pollute these ideals. This is our country, and we must demand that it be fair and just.

Lastly, because I’m discussing broader reforms than reentry and prison reform, I want to add to Pete and Scott’s answer for why our generation should care:

Many advocates of reform, including myself, are motivated by the racial injustice of the system. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to have a meaningful discussion of racial bias, without a significant portion of the population in turn suggesting the “race card” is expired.

Race turns off a lot of people. They think it's tired and lingering, if not counterproductive. We have to demand a real discussion now; otherwise, today’s perception that racial injustice was settled 50 years ago will become 70 years ago to the next generation. The legacy of black codes and convict leasing and chain gangs and racially charged rhetoric during the tough on crime decades has to be meaningfully addressed now, while criminal justice reform is a popular political topic and before it becomes even more ingrained in our society’s subconscious.

 
These letters written in response to
Q&A December 1, 2014
A couple of Harvard guys aim to find out.