Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Position That I Think Worth Stating

311 has been one of my favorite bands since a co-worker lent me a tape of theirs in 1994. Their August 1995 show at the Night Owl in Pensacola, Florida was one of the first shows I ever attended. At that time 311 had recently released their third album, which featured a few songs that would become huge hits and quickly propel them to the top of the music industry.

Yesterday, on my drive to Tallahassee, I threw in a CD (they still exist!) I hadn’t listened to in a while: 311’s second album, “Grassroots.” Released in 1994, “Grassroots” is still among my all-time favorite albums.

While I’ve memorized every lyric, guitar riff, drum fill and bass line on that record, I hadn’t remembered that one of 311 ‘s two vocalists, Nick Hexum, had written a verse that is as relevant to FAMM’s work today as it was then. I won’t repeat the title of the song on FAMM’s family-friendly blog, but in the penultimate track on the album, Hexum writes:
“. . . sing along with a cry of a mandatory sentence for a crime with no victim, when everybody knows jail terms should be picked in the order of the pain that they cause; ‘do what thou wilt’ should be the whole of the laws until you violate the rights of another; respect the space of your sister and your brother. The war on drugs may be well intentioned but it falls (expletive) flat when you start to mention an overcrowded prison where a rapist gets paroled to make room for a dude who has sold a pound of weed; to me that’s a crime. Here’s to good people doin’ time . . .”
Admittedly, the other verses in the song aren’t quite as poignant, but in just a few lines Hexum makes a compelling argument against mandatory sentences and the drug war. FAMM takes no position on drug legalization generally, but prison overcrowding is one of the many negative consequences of mandatory minimum prison sentences, and the federal government continues to lock up thousands of marijuana offenders every year.

311 has been doing their thing since 1991 and have sold nearly nine million albums in the U.S. FAMM, of course, has been fighting mandatory minimum sentences and making the case for fairness in the criminal justice system for more than 20 years. And have had our fair share of success, too. There’s still a lot of work to be done. Nick, if you’re out there, join us!

Listen to the song here.

Buy 311 albums and help FAMM by clicking the Amazon link here.

Greg Newburn, the author of this post, is the Director of FAMM's Florida Project.  Find out more about FAMM's work in Florida here.  You can also follow FAMM's Florida Project on Twitter:  @FloridaFAMM.