I'm proud to call Malcolm Jenkins a partner in reforming Philadelphia's criminal justice system.
Every city in America should have a Malcolm Jenkins. We need to applaud dedicated people like him – people who use their time, talent, and influence to address systematic inequality in our communities.
Malcolm and his colleagues in the Players Coalition are outspoken advocates for criminal justice reform and the need to address the racial biases that plague our system.
Using its platform and players' time off the field, the Players Coalition shines a light on the myriad problems surrounding mass incarceration. Malcolm and his colleagues are reaching out to stakeholders to better understand the human impact of criminal justice policy – something that can't happen often enough. And they are taking action.
When Malcolm reached out to me in late summer 2017 to start a conversation about cash bail and how he and fellow players could support efforts to end it, I knew it was the start of something significant.
That September, Malcolm arranged for a group of players along with Eagles and NFL executives to observe bail hearings in the basement of Philadelphia's Criminal Justice Center. In near disbelief, they watched two-minute bail hearings where, one after another, defendants were assigned bail of $50,000 or higher. Malcolm brought the group back to our offices for an in-depth discussion on what they'd witnessed and the inherent problems surrounding cash bail.
In Philadelphia, we know that nearly 90 percent of people in our jails are people of color. We know that 23 percent of people have not been convicted of any crime. They sit in jail simply because they cannot afford to pay their bail.
Men and women leave jail more desperate, without the resources and supports they need to get back to their lives. They're traumatized. They've often lost their jobs. Their homes. In some cases, their children.
Armed with the experience in Philadelphia and others across the country, Malcolm has become a commanding voice for poor and minority people caught in a system that routinely incarcerates people pretrial. Throughout September, the Players Coalition launched an all-out attack on the money bail system, continuing the group's work from last year, when players traveled to Albany, N.Y., to push for bail reform.
This month, the Players Coalition is not only working to turn out the vote, but it is pushing major ballot initiatives across the country that could ameliorate the harshness of the criminal justice system.
I was proud to join Malcolm and the Players Coalition at a Philadelphia event this fall to discuss opportunities to expand the coalition's work in our city. The coalition is now planning an event not only to bail people out of our prison, but to support those making the transition from jail back to their communities by providing the services and support that incarceration does not.
As a member of the movement to end mass incarceration – a movement that many have joined to create better policies and practices that can meaningfully enhance the lives of the individuals that funnel through this system – I am enormously grateful that Malcolm and his partners are a part of it.
They recognize that everyone can and should be working toward reducing racial disparities and making our communities stronger and safer. And they recognize the need to uplift people marginalized in their communities not because there is fanfare or glory in it – because it matters and it's what is right.
Lasting policy change rarely happens quickly. Malcolm and the Players Coalition have remained steady and steadfast, seeking new opportunities to speak out about cash bail and policies that perpetuate racial inequality in our justice system. They are using their resources and influence to support people struggling to return to their communities.
We all have a responsibility to do something that is bigger than ourselves and use our resources to engage in meaningful ways to change our society. The Players Coalition's commitment to addressing these issues and the human costs associated with the criminal justice system is nothing short of admirable.