Prison reform in the United States is one of the most complicated issues to address. While mass incarceration is understood to be a serious problem, with over three decades of politicians promoting a “tough on crime” stance, we must also address the problem of how to view prisoners as real humans that deserve compassion.
Changing our perspectives about prisoners has become Speech’s mission. (Speech is the name he is best known by. His other name is Todd Thomas). During the 1990s, Speech was part of the Grammy-winning group Arrested Development, praised for their socially conscious music during the rise of gangster rap. Although the band broke up soon after, Speech continues to tour and use music to change lives. As captured in Sam Bathrick’s film 16 Bars, Speech has dedicated himself to working with inmates not only to create an album, but also to create a space where they can express themselves in a positive manner. The end result is not only an album of soulful and emotional songs, but also the realization of how much talent we lose from not addressing the structural barriers that keep inmates from receiving support.
Speech joins hosts Gilad Cohen and Simona Ramkisson to discuss his experiences filming 16 Bars, why it is so difficult to change the prison-industrial complex, and music’s role in social justice.
Download the episode transcript here.
Hosted by Gilad Cohen (Founder, JAYU) and Simona Ramkisson, produced and edited by Brandon Fragomeni and Alex Castellani. Associate producer: Ron Ma.
Image: Resonant Pictures. Used with permission.
Theme music created for The Hum by Jeff Morrow.