Hill Harper On New Book ‘Letters To An Incarcerated Brother,’ How To Fix U.S. Prisons
Hill Harper, the CSI: NY actor, has written a new book called Letters To an Incarcerated Brother: Encouragement, Hope And Healing For Inmates and Their Loved Ones. Harper, who is also the best-selling author of Letters to a Young Brother, spoke with Uinterview about his book, the problems facing the U.S. prison system as a whole and what can be done about it.
Harper points out that though African American young men make up a disproportionate percentage of the prison population, their incarceration rate is less about race and more about economics. “There are a number of states and a number of places if you look at the data there are so many young African American young men being sentenced. The number of our individuals who are being incarcerated is at an alarmingly high rate,” said Harper. “It is not race, it is poverty.”
Harper also made the startling point: “There are more African Americans in prison today than they were slaves in human history.”
With his first two books – Letters To A Young Brother and Letters To A Young Sister, Harper’s goal was to motivate the youth of American, and his work ended up reaching a number of juveniles, who in turn wrote Harper letters. “I started having a letter exchange back and forth with a lot of these folks who were incarcerated and it struck me in a lot of ways,” Harper told Uinterview exclusively. “The first letter I got was the first letter that is presented in my book from a young man name Brian. These letters moved me to a degree to find out what’s going on with our incarceration system and how can we put forth some solutions and inspiration.”
How does Harper suggest the country handle the incarceration problem? “The biggest prison systems are state by state. We have to figure out ways to get our politicians — local state and federal — to stop just running around with general 'tough on crime' rhetoric. Creating laws and the war on drugs, based off baseball rules, but not good criminal justice.”
Hill Harper Offers Advice
Although Incarcerated Brother focuses mostly on the prison system, Harper hopes that a larger message is passed on to readers – those behind bars and those who’ve never stepped foot in a penitentiary. “The book isn’t just for folks who are in physical prisons, many of us are in prison that are not made of iron bars, that I hope the book will help set free," Harper said. "It is written for anyone who feels stuck in any way, sometimes we feel stuck in a job, in a career, by our parents or a relationship, or our kids, debt, credit card debt or mortgage debt.”
For those looking to help spread Harper's message, the actor and author has set up a gifting program at www.IncarceratedBrother.com, where people can buy and send the book to prison libraries.
– Chelsea Regan